Fabergé silver bell push realistically modelled as a seated elephant; marked under the base.
Humorously created, this pudgy model of an elephant portrayed seated as if a human being while looking forward; the elephant is shown in an upright position with the tip of his trunk pointed upwards, hind legs outstretched, front legs resting on the protruding belly. The elephant is cast and meticulously finished by hand to the texture of the wrinkled skin, large floppy ears, tusks. The hallmark of Fabergé along with perfunctory others appear on elephant’s curved tale underside.
Fabergé’s silver animals were modelled after nature. Numerous animal figurines used as preparatory models are visible in a photograph of Fabergé’s St. Petersburg studio (see G. von Habsburg, Fabergé, 1987, p. 34). The main producer of silver animalier sculpture was the firm’s head silversmith, Julius Rappoport (see A. von Solodkoff “Fabergé’s Animal Farm” in Fabergé, Imperial Craftsman and His World, London 2000, pp. 104-109). Rappoport designed a range of silver animal figures: bell-pushes and table lighters in the shape of elephants, pigs, rabbits, bears and monkeys, portrayed in lively and playful poses. Other examples include of similar silver figures by Rappoport are in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow (Silver Table Lighter in the form of a Seated Monkey, МР-5667) and the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg (Silver Jug in the shape of a Beaver, ЭРО-5001)
Figures of elephants hold a special place among Fabergé’s animalier objects. Their exceptional popularity with the firm’s aristocratic clients accounts for the large number of elephants produced by Fabergé’s sculptors in hardstone and silver. The British Royal Collection alone contains forty-nine carved elephant figurines. Members of the Russian Imperial family also showed a particular fondness for this animal: elephant sculptures were ordered by Tsar Alexander III and his wife Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna, and later by Tsar Nicholas II. Fabergé’s two greatest patrons, Maria Fyodorovna and her sister Alexandra Queen of Great Britain, neé Princesses of Denmark, commissioned a number of objects incorporating an elephant and castle – the emblem of the Order of the Elephant, the highest Danish order of chivalry and a symbol of absolute rule in Denmark.
Among the most prominent examples are objects commissioned in 1892 by Alexander III and Maria Fyodorovna to commemorate the golden wedding anniversary of the Tsarina’s parents, King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark: a monumental presentational silver kovsh with its handle featuring an elephant and castle and a pair of silver wine coolers with elephant-shaped handles (both in the Danish Royal Collection). In 1903, Tsar Nicholas II commissioned Fabergé to produce an Easter egg for Maria Fyodorovna known as the Danish Jubilee Egg, surmounted by an elephant and castle (now lost).