The Balletta Bulldog

Russian (St. Petersburg)
about 1905
Workshop of Peter Carl Fabergé (Russian, 1846–1920)


Object Place: Europe, St. Petersburg, Russia

Dimensions

8.9 x 2.7 x 11.6 cm (3 1/2 x 1 1/16 x 4 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

1980.649

Medium or Technique

Gold, silver, agate, diamond and ruby

Not On View

Collections

Europe, Jewelry

Classifications

Jewelry / Adornment

Lapidary artists in the Fabergé workshops employed a wide range of semi-precious stones to create exquisitely carved animal sculptures. Their selection, and the manner in which the stones were employed, depended upon the design and in many cases imitated patterns and hues found in nature. Some of the animals, including this bulldog, were actual portraits of living creatures that were prized pets. Both the name and address of the dog represented here (Cody, Av. Bosquet 9) are inscribed on an applied gold plaque secured to the dog’s bejeweled collar. This ornament also features a diamond-studded buckle, a polished gold bell in the front, and a ring at the back for a leash. Cody’s arresting eyes are cabochon rubies set in gold and his body is made of tan-colored agate. The ears are slightly darker in color and the skin folds, fur, and posture are highly naturalistic.

The sculpture of Cody was a gift to actress Elizabeth Balleta from Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, son of Alexander II and a high admiral in the Russian Imperial fleet. Ms. Balleta, who performed for many years at the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg, was a favorite of the Grand Duke who often purchased gifts for her from Fabergé and Cartier. After twenty-five years of acting, she settled in Paris at Avenue Bosquet 9.

Many of Fabergé’s carved animals were made in Idar-Oberstein, Germany and at the Imperial Peterhof Lapidary Works in St. Petersburg. After 1908, with the arrival of such lapidary artisans P. Kremlev and P. Derbyshev, the firm produced its own works in hard stones.


Lapidary artists in the Fabergé workshops created exquisitely carved animal sculptures from a wide range of semiprecious stones, matching the natural color and inclusions of particular gems with their designs.1 Some of the sculptures were portraits of prized pets. This highly naturalistic carved agate bulldog has his name and address—”Cody, Av. Bosquet 9”—engraved on a plaque soldered to his jeweled collar. The neck ornament also features a diamond-studded buckle, a polished gold bell, and a ring at the back for a leash. The dog’s arresting eyes are cabochon rubies set in gold.2
Yvonne J. Markowitz, “The Balletta Bulldog” in Artful Adornments: Jewelry from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Yvonne J. Markowitz (Boston: MFA Publications, 2011), 93.

Inscription

Collar inscribed: "Cody, Av. Bosquet 9."

Provenance

About 1905, commissioned by Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich (b. 1850 - d. 1908) for Elizabeth Balletta, Paris [see note 1]. 1949, with Wartski, London. Sold by Robert Smith, Washington, DC, to Sidney A. Levine, Melrose, MA; June 28, 1979, consigned by Dr. Levine for sale, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, lot 405, unsold; 1980, year-end gift of Sidney A. Levine to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 14, 1981)

NOTES:
[1] Modelled after her bulldog, Cody.

Credit Line

Gift of Sidney A. Levine