A superb marriage casket
The front finely engraved with a cartouche containing the personification of Love, flanked on both sides by family…
Of cylindrical section, on short trumpet-shaped folded foot ring, the body rising to slightly flaring upper rim and chased with three flowers in relief, the upper rim with inscription in Cyrillic: beaker for the right honourable gentleman Grigorii Dimitrijevich Stroganov.
This beaker is decorated in a floral motif that was not unusual in the Low Countries during the third quarter of the 17th century. The flowers, foot, rim and inside are gilt. The shape of the object is a commonly used European model that appeared in many varieties, with or without a foot ring. The dimensions are always equal as if a general European standard size was already in use. The decoration of the beaker was subject to fashion. The piece was manufactured in Amsterdam and the inscription was added in Russia in the 17th century.
In the Kremlin Museum in Moscow a vast collection of 17th-century silver is kept, including a great number of pieces originating form the Netherlands. Many objects were handed to the Russian royal family by representatives of the Dutch Republic as a token of diplomatic respect of the Dutch to the Russian ruler. The most important missions took place in 1648, 1665 and 1676. The pieces were included in the collections of the Kremlin and Russian engravers consecutively put inscriptions on the objects that were related to the occasions or persons who presented and received them, respectively.
The ownership of valuable silver was reserved to the Tsar and a selected group of rich and noble families, who belonged to the Tsar’s inner circle. One of them was Grigorii Dimitrievich Stroganov (25 January 1656 – 21 November 1715), who was the only son of Dimitri Andreyevich Stroganov. He was a Russian landowner and statesman, the most notable scion of the prominent Stroganov family in the late-17th to early-18th century, and a strong supporter of the reforms and initiatives of Tsar Peter I, the Great. The family’s surname is also transcribed as Stroganoff. Beef Stroganoff is named after this family.
Stroganov’s name first appears in the public record in 1672, when he visited Moscow with gifts for Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich on the occasion of the birth of Tsarevich Peter, the later Tsar Peter I, the Great. Dimitiri Andreyevich Stroganov died the next year (1673) and the Tsar issued a gramota [written contract] confirming Grigorii’s inheritance of one third of the Stroganov family fortune. When the heirs of Yakov Stroganov, the senior branch of the family, died in 1681, Grigorii inherited another one third of the Stroganov lands. The last third, owned by the wife of Fyodor Petrovich Stroganov, was passed onto him on 18 January 1686. This consolidation increased Grigorii Stroganov’s personal holdings dramatically, to more than ten million desiatinas of land (103,000 square kilometers) with more than 200 villages and 15,000 adult male serfs. This figure does not include his estates in Moscow (e.g. Vlakhernskoye-Kuzminki), Nizhny Novgorod and Solvychegodsk.
Grigorii Stroganov was the largest Russian landowner after the Tsar, and who had bestowed upon him the honour of addressing him by his first name (imya).
Beginning in 1682 Grigorii Stroganov regularly assisted the government in its financial difficulties. In 1700 he funded the construction of several military ships for the nascent Imperial Russian Navy. For his services Grigorii Stroganov received numerous awards, honourary distinctions and additional lands. A major factor in Stroganov’s power was his saltern enterprise, whose efficiency greatly improved under his management. However, he lost this advantage in 1705, when the state established a salt monopoly.
Grigorii Stroganov married twice, first to Princess Vassa Meshcherskaya, and then to Princess Maria Novosiltseva. Three children from the second marriage survived: Alexander (*1699), Nikolai (*1700), Tsar Peter’s godson, and Sergey (*1700).
Presumably the present small beaker was one of the mission gifts, and undoubtedly it was part of a set. In the Kremlin Museum there are several pieces identically inscribed, a.o. a set of eleven similar beakers (inv. n° M3-36) and a jug (inv. n° M3-9), both also dated 1663, all bearing the mark of Pieter Roelof van Emden de Vries.
Galina A. Markova, the author of the book about Dutch silver in the Kremlin, suggests for our object that Stroganov himself bought it in Amsterdam; however, this is not plausible. Why would Stroganov, aged 7, buy a piece of silver in Amsterdam? If he bought it at a later age, he would not have acquired objects dated 1663, that were already waiting on a shelf. It is not probable that Stroganov already received presents from the Dutch during the mission of 1665. Maybe another member of his family received gifts at the time and that Grigorii, later, had his name added on the beakers. Another possibility is that the Tsar presented various objects to Stroganov from his personal stock of diplomatic gifts. It is a fact that although a lot of silver is still kept at the Kremlin Museum, many pieces vanished during later years. Of the mission of 1676, for instance, records are still extant, stating which and how many silver pieces were presented and what is left of it now; a substantial part is missing.
Either way: Grigorii Stroganov owned a number of Dutch beakers, jugs and a tazza, many of which were manufactured by Roelof Pieter van Emden de Vries. A large part of this collection ended up in (or was returned to) the Kremlin, sometime during the past centuries. However, some of it was spread. Grigorii Stroganov had three children and his family extended enormously in the generations that followed. They did not only have property in St. Petersburg but also in western-European cities such as Paris and Rome. Already during the 19th century works of art owned by the family’s descendants were sold. This small beaker does not appear on the list of confiscated artworks, that were auctioned at Lepke in Berlin in 1931. Possibly it was already kept in France, where various members of the Stroganov family had fled to after the 1917 revolution.
The mark on this beaker is attributed to the Amsterdam silversmith Roelof Pieter van Emden de [van] Vries. As his name indicates he originated from Emden (Ost-Friesland) where he was born in or around 1632. Aged around 20 he was a pupil of the Utrecht silversmith Jan Pelle and in 1655 of the Amsterdam silversmith Dirk de Ram, who also witnessed his wedding to Mayke van Sittert in that year and with whom he set up house at Haarlemmerstraat. In the same year De Vries entered his mark at the Amsterdam Guild. He became a productive service maker, manufacturing a.o. chased candlesticks, jugs and dishes. De Vries passed away in 1664.
At the time he lived at St. Jansstraat, where he presumably also had his workshop. This street is situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam, a small alley between the Warmoesstraat and the Oudezijdsvoorburgwal, an area where many silversmiths had their workshops, because the Guildhouse was nearby in the St Annendwarsstraat, about a 100 yards distance from today’s Bijenkorf department store and the Stock Exchange.
It is remarkable that two silversmiths of whom objects are kept at the Kremlin Museum, lived at St. Jansstraat: of Henricus van Leeuwen (active 1663-after 1689) know he worked here, Michel Esselbeeck (active 1642-1671) most certainly married here.
Grigory Dmitrievich Stroganov, Private collection, Europe
Galina A. Markova, Dutch Silver in the collection of the State Armoury, Moscow (Gollandskoe Serebro), 1990;
Galina A. Markova, The Armoury and its treasures, Dutch Silver, Moscow 2003;
Barry Shifman, a.o, Gifts to the Tsars, 1500-1700, Harry Abrams, Inc., Indianapolis/Moscow, 2001;
Karel A. Citroen, Amsterdamse zilversmeden en hun merken, Amsterdam 1975, n° 794, p. 154, the mark of the silversmith
Roelof Pieter van Emden de Vries, Amsterdam, 1663
height 8,6 cm.