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Patrons and collectors of art

Carl Johann Tegelstein (1798-1852)

Table 1844

Hardstones, gilt bronze, glass | 78.6 x 73.5 cm (whole object, diameter) | RCIN 1450

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Circular centre table with a glazed top, housing a pietra dura panel of a floral spray set within a grey, white and lapis Greek Key border; resting on an ornate gilt bronze base formed of foliate scrolls around a stem, with floral swags and putti.

Tsar Nicholas I of Russia sent this elaborately decorated table, together with a large St Petersburg porcelain vase to Queen Victoria following his hurriedly arranged state visit in 1844. The Queen viewed these impressive presents for the first time in the State Apartments, Windsor on 2 December 1844 (Journal). As she and Prince Albert well knew, such gifts between sovereigns were invariably intended to be seen more as an advertisement for the skills of the donor's countrymen than as a reflection of the taste of the recipient, but in this case both objects were appreicated and found homes in the Semi-State Apartments at Windsor. The table was placed in the White Drawing Room, where it is shown in Joseph Nash's Views of the Interior and Exterior of Windsor Castle, prominently displayed in the window bay.

In the list of imperial gifts from the Peterhof Lapidary Works for the year 1844, the table top, valued at 5,715 roubles, is described as being decorated with a bouquet of flowers of different stones, and on a bronze base made in the 'English Shop'. Unusually for a table top, the flowers are not inlaid in the traditional pietra dura technique, but are carved in low and medium relief, necessitating the use of a glass protective cover supported above the marble by a chased bronze rim.

The Finnish-born silversmith and bronze-worker Carl John-Tegelstein (or Tegelsten) qualified as a master craftsman in St Petersburg in 1825. From around 1833 much of his work in bronze and silver was retailed by Nicholas & Plincke, one of the most fashionable shops in St Petersburg, founded in 1789 and active until 1880. They held an Imperial Warrant and until the Crimean War were familiarly known as 'The English Shop'.

Bronze base stamped: C. Tegelstein

Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010