NEW YORK, NY -- Feodor Rückert was arguably the most talented craftsman of enameled silver objects in Imperial Russia. Based in Moscow, the center of Russian silver production, Rückert became an enamel master in 1886 and worked until his death in 1917. He made a wide range of functional and decorative objects, from spoons to kovshi, cigarette cases to caskets. While he worked in every enameling technique (cloisonné, champlevé, en plein, guilloché and plique-à-jour), he was renowned for his virtuosity in cloisonné and shaded cloisonné enamel.
From 1887 until his death, Rückert enjoyed a long and productive working relationship with the Fabergé firm. In fact, much of Fabergé’s supply of cloisonné enamel from 1908 to 1917 came from Rückert. Some objects were marked with his initials FR, others also included the mark of Fabergé’s Moscow branch. This is not to say Rückert worked with Fabergé exclusively. His work was in such demand that he also supplied other prominent firms, such as Ovchinnikov and Bolin.
Until 1908, Rückert’s work, like that of his peers, drew on Russian historical design precedents and nineteenth-century re-interpretations of seventeenth-century Russian ornament. After 1908, however, his work reflected the influence of the emerging Neo-Russian style, which combined elements of the Art Nouveau with Russian vernacular ornament and forms. Promoted by the pioneering Stroganov Institute design school and the artist colonies of Abramtsevo and Talashkino, this vibrant and uniquely Russian visual vocabulary spread throughout the decorative arts.
It was during this latter period that Rückert was at his most inventive and produced his finest works. Turning from realistic floral decoration in a jewel-tone palette, he embraced the use of abstracted floral and vegetal forms, geometric motifs and animal forms, using a palette that mixed earth tones with jewel tones. The forms of his objects, for example the handles of kovshi, became more exaggerated and experimental. Lot 11 in Doyle’s April 28 Russian Works of Art auction, a Silver-Gilt and Cloisonné Enamel Kovsh by Rückert and retailed by Fabergé, with its abstract floral ornament in earth tones and angular handle, is one such example. Lot 13, a Silver and Cloisonné Enamel Bowl by Rückert, was cast with handles in the form of bear’s heads that lend the object a folkloric quality.
Many of Rückert’s designs drew inspiration from Russian history, folk tales and famous paintings. Scenes were reproduced en plein and incorporated into kovshi, cigarette cases or caskets. An example of this technique is a Silver-Gilt and Enamel Kovsh retailed by Fabergé, which incorporates an en plein enamel reproduction of The Boyar by the eminent Russian painter Konstantin Makovsky (sold by Doyle on October 31, 2018, lot 208).
Rückert’s designs appealed to Russians’ interest in their own history, rooted in the nineteenth-century fascination with national identity and culminating in the celebrations of the tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty in 1913. His work found commercial success with the Moscow merchant class especially, whose native Russian taste stood in contrast to that of Westward looking St. Petersburg. Even so, the timeless quality and inventive design of Rückert’s work withstood the tumult of the Russian Revolution and continues to attract admirers worldwide more than a century later.
Russian Works of Art
The April 28, 2020 auction of Russian Works of Art featured five lots with cloisonné enamel by Feodor Rückert. View Lots