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The Naryshkin Treasure on display

25.12.2019

Visitors to the Catherine Palace can see the exhibition A Noble Family’s Silverware:  The Naryshkin Mansion Treasure set out in the Second Antechamber.

On display are over 700 silver and gold items of the late eighteenth–early twentieth centuries, found in a previously undetected storage space between two floors of the Trubetskoy-Naryshkin Mansion on 29 Tchaikovsky Street in central St Petersburg in March 2012. With assistance from Russia’s Ministry of Culture, Tsarskoe Selo now keeps the find. Already considered the largest cache in Russian history, in 2018 the ‘Naryshkin treasure’ was handed over to the Museum’s specialists who then carefully inventoried the precious objects with help from Russia’s Northwest Assay Office.  

All in great condition, the objects were made by the best jewelers of Russian and European makers, such as Ignaty Sazikov, Pavel Ovchinnikov, Ivan Khlebnikov, the Grachev Brothers, Carl Fabergé, Keibel, Varypaev, Falize, Aucoc Aine, Touron, Queille, Parisot and Harleux. Some of them bear the master’s marks by Jacquart, Corne Guillaume, Cardeilhac, Dehanne.

The rare objects include tableware, silverware (from tea strainers to big samovars), bouillottes and household items. Especially noteworthy is a Russian Revival ceremonial table service by Ignaty Sazikov, showing great delicacy of execution in a large variety of items. It serves as a bright example of the highest craftsmanship of leading Russian jewelers, many of whom were suppliers to the imperial court.

All the objects, many of which were found wrapped in the July–September 1917 issues of the monarchist newspaper Russian Will, belonged to one family. Most of them carry the crest of the Naryshkins, descendants of Natalia Naryshkina, the mother of Peter the Great, and some carry the crest of the Somovs.

Poruchik (first lieutenant) Sergey Somov was married to Natalia, the daughter of Prince Valisy Narushkin who owned the mansion from 1875. Family silver items in the find include a travel soap dish monogrammed ‘SS’ and a French travel toiletry kit with Somov and Naryshkin marriage crests (could be their wedding gifts). Sergey might have been the one who secreted the treasure at the time of the October Revolution in 1917. His student card of 1908 and his White Eagle Order certificate of 1915 were among the documents accompanying the find. Sergey Somov stayed after Valisy Narushkin’s family fled Russia on the eve of the Revolution. He fled to Paris later in 1917 and died there in 1976. He and his wife, who died two years later, had no heirs. Valuables acquired from their St Petersburg mansion after the Revolution mostly went to the State Hermitage and the Russian Museum. 

The ‘Naryshkin treasure’ now permanently resides at Tsarskoe Selo and will grace the displays of the Alexander Palace after its future restoration.