An imperial presentation gift from Tsar Nicholas II to the French ambassador
to Russia and thence by descent
History and Imperial provenance always find avid collectors. And boy does this bowl have history! It was, the catalogue declared, a ‘gift from Tsar Nicholas II to the French Ambassador’ and had been consigned by his descendants. The Ambassador’s identity was not given – no one likes to see their name up in lights when they’re flogging the family silver.
The Anonymous Ambassador was Gustave Lannes, Count of Montebello (1838-1907). He arrived in St Petersburg from Constantinople, having previously been French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. His grandfather was one of Napoleon’s favourite generals: Marshal Lannes, killed at the Battle of Essling outside Vienna in 1809. His father, Napoléon Lannes, was French Ambassador to Russia from 1858-64. His mother was English – daughter of the M.P. for Dover.