Now for something a tad different. You have all no doubt heard of the great jewellers of the Faberge family. There were others in Russia of vast and valued talent, exquisite jewellers and fine enamelists. One among that multitude was Ivan Petrovich Khlebnikov (Иван Петрович Хлебников, 1819-1881). Blogger kykolnik put up a series of posts on Khlebnikov’s works, and I’m loosely translating some of it here.
Although there’s some information about Khlebnikov’s factory, there’s little on the man himself. One may surmise that he succeeded his father to the business of trading diamond, gold and silver articles in Moscow. In extant documents, Ivan Khlebnikov appears as a merchant in Moscow’s first guild, or as a Muscovite manufacturer; after 1879, he appears as a St Petersburg merchant as well.
In 1871, he requested permission of the governor-general of Moscow to open a factory for the production of golden and silver articles in the house of Narushkin, in the Yauzsk district. Permission was forthcoming and he opened the factory the same year, employing around 200 artisans. His annual turnover was close to 300,00o roubles, and he worked over five hundred poods of silver, ten poods of gold, diamonds and other stones nearly 600,000. This was a highly mechanised operation, working on all aspects of gold and silver ware. Two schools – one for painting and the other for sculpture – were opened within the premises of the factory, training thirty-five students.
From 1872 onwards, Khlebnikov’s firm could claim the favour of the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich; the resultant fame did much to promote his wares. When, in 1873, Khlebnikov displayed some of his creations at Vienna’s Universal Exhibition, experts acclaimed it for its Russian sensibility, fine decorative enamel work and the evocation of antiquity, and he won two medals there. The ensuing fame of his factory resulted in a large increase in commissions and orders, as well as the renovation of the court’s silverware (among others, a silver service given to Catherine II by Potemkin was restored by Khlebnikov’s factory).
Khlebnikov was eager to be appointed as purveyor to the Imperial court which would allow him to use the Czar’s livery on his creations, and in 1879 he received that honour as well. At the same time, the Serbian, Dutch and Danish monarchs appointed him as a purveyor of silverware to their courts.
Khlebnikov died aged 62 in 1881 and was buried in the Spaso-Andronikov monastery. His grave has not survived.