The Kelch family history has been well researched. Varvara (Barbara) Petrovna Bazanova came from a very affluent family of Muscovite merchants. Her grandfather, Ivan Bazanov, founded a number of major businesses in Siberia, including a gold mine, a railway and a shipping company, of which he was majority shareholder together with two partners, Yakov Nemchinov and Mikhail Sibiriakov. At her father's death, Varvara and her mother, Julia, inherited the family fortune and founded a new company together with Konstantin Sibiriakov.
Varvara married Nikolai Ferdinandovich Kelch, son of a St. Petersburg hereditary nobleman, in 1892; he died two years later, but not before contributing 250,000 rubles of his wife's money to a hospital in Irkutsk. As was often the case in Russia, Nikolai's brother, Alexander, married the rich young widow that same year, in what was probably a marriage of convenience, as the prenuptial agreement apparently left everything in her own name. They had two daughters: one died aged 16, the other married a diplomat and was posted to Japan. While Alexander followed a military career in St. Petersburg, living at 53 Bolshaya Morskaya, Varvara resided at 60 Mokhovaia in Moscow.
In 1896 the Kelch's acquired a mansion in St. Petersburg at 28 Sergeievskaia for 300,000 rubles and redecorated the dining room with dark oak paneling in the Neo-Gothic style. The architect Carl Schmid, a cousin of Fabergé, assisted the Kelchs with the remodeling. In 1898, when the refurbishment was complete, Varvara moved into their St. Petersburg home. Around 1900 the couple ordered for their mansion a massive surtout de table in the Neo-Gothic style from Fabergé for the astronomic sum of 125,000 rubles.
In 1900 Varvara and Alexander both finally lived under the same roof. In 1901 Alexander Kelch retired from the army and was named President of the various Bazanov businesses. Varvara was involved with social activities and charities such as the All Russia Red Cross Ladies Committee and the Imperial Musical Society, of which the two Empresses were patrons. It was probably as benefactress of the Imperial Women's Patriotic Society Schools, the beneficiaries of the Fabergé Exhibition held in 1902 at the von Dervis Mansion on the English Embankment, that Varvara lent her Fabergé silver surtout.
The exhibition, the first and only one dedicated to Fabergé in Russia, was held under the patronage of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna and a bevy of Grand Dukes and Duchesses and realized a profit of 3,000 rubles for the schools. Albeit not mentioned in the list of loans published in the newspapers at the time (all other lenders belonged to the St. Petersburg haute societé ), the Kelch centerpiece is clearly shown prominently displayed on a table in the commemorative photographs, and under magnification the initial "K" engraved on the tableware is also apparent.
Every year from 1898 until 1904 Alexander Kelch ordered an Easter Egg from Fabergé, modeled on the Imperial series, as a present for his wife, who no doubt also paid for them. No doubt, too, that the Kelch Eggs cost them considerably more than those made for the Imperial family, given the parsimony of the Romanov's and the generosity of the nouveaux riches. The seven Kelch eggs are as fine, if not even more sumptuous, than those in the Imperial series.
As of 1904, the Bazanov businesses continued to prosper, and in that year the family formed the Promyshlennosty Company with Alexander, of course, as its President. The Kelch's also purchased a second home in 1904 at 13 Glinka Street in St. Petersburg. However, the disastrous Russo-Japanese War brought about the demise of the Bazanov business empire. One after the other the businesses and the mansions were sold off.
The Kelch's were legally separated in 1905, but Barbara continued to make major acquisitions of jewelry, Barbara moved to Paris with all her belongings, and the couple divorced in 1915. Alexander remained in Russia and remarried, but he did not fare well, eventually becoming a pauper and working as a street vendor after the Revolution, although Barbara had invited him to move to Paris. In 1930 Alexander was arrested and disappeared in Siberia along with millions of Russians during the Stalinist purges.
The Bazanov's main claim to fame remains their seven glorious Easter eggs, all created by Michael Perkhin, Fabergé's second head workmaster. All seven are today in prestigious collections:
The 7 Kelch Eggs:
1) The 1898 First Hen Egg, modeled on the 1885 Imperial Hen Egg sold by Sotheby's in Cairo (King Farouk Sale) 10 March 1954, lot 165, to Alexander Schaffer of A La Vieille Russie for $15,225, sold by them to Lansdell Christie in 1961, and, after his death in 1965 to Malcolm Forbes. 2004 Vekselberg Foundation/The Link of Times-Collection, Russia.
2) The 1899 Twelve Panel Egg, acquired by Emmanuel Snowman, probably in Paris from Morgan around 1920, sold by Wartski to King George V in 193. (Collection of H. M. Queen Elizabeth II ).
3) The 1900 Pine Cone Egg, sold at Christie's Geneva, 10 May 1989, lot 83, to the late Ms. Joan Kroc for $3,140.000. (Private Collection, USA ).
4) The 1901 Apple Blossom Egg, twice auctioned at Christie's Geneva , 17 May 1994, for $861.585 and 19 November 1996, for $1,128.740 respectively. (Adulf Peter Goop Collection, Liechtenstein).
5) The 1902 Rocaille Egg.
6) The 1903 Bonbonnière Egg, offered at auction at Christie's New York, 30 October, 1990. (Private Collection, Australia).
7) The 1904 Chanticleer Egg, owned by Maurice Sandoz, Switzerland 1949-1958, then by Lansdell Christie of Long Island, New York, sold 1966 by A La Vieille Russie to Malcolm Forbes. 2004 Vekselberg foundation/The Link of Times-Collection.
If you have suggestions for additional entries on this book, please email us, and if possible, please include information about the Egg and good pictures. Thank you.