The Role of the Documents and Published Sources in Assessment and Attribution: The Case Study of the Malachite History


The newly developed high-tech methods of attribution and assessment have sometimes been viewed as replacements for more traditional approaches. This article uses three case studies to examine the role of documents and published resources as the important sources of information for the attribution of malachite pieces commissioned to the European artists by Nikolay Demidov. The first case highlights the role of archival documents in the identification of the elements and complete reconstruction of an important table centrepiece. The second example uses the materials published by the media of different countries made accessible by the digitalization process, and the placement of this digital copy in the open databases. With the support from the three articles published in the English, French and Vatican journals, it was possible to identify author, date of creation and the relation to the client for one pair of columns, which are the first example of the architectural use of malachite. The third case shows the role of iconographic sources – original pieces and printed graphics – in the attribution of the pieces from the presumably lost collection of Russian malachite created for the First World’s Exhibition in London in 1851. In conclusion, the author discusses the importance of the traditional methods of assessment and attribution based on the documents and printed sources.

Keywords: malachite, stonecutting art, Demidov family, Thomire, Sibilio, private malachite manufacture of Demidov, The World Exhibition in London (1851)

[1] Sychev, I. O. (2013). Vazy-trenozhniki raboty P’yera-Filippa Tomira iz ubranstva villy San-Donato knyazey Demidovykh. Zvezda Renessansa, vol. 19, pp. 10-19.

[2] GASO, f. (1987). 102, Op. 1, D. 173, L. 11. In Semenov, V.B. Malakhit. V 2-kh t. T. 2. Khronika, Dokumenty, Kommentarii. Sverdlovsk: Sredne-Ural’skoye Knizhnoye Izdatel’stvo, p. 64.

[3] Argenziano, R. (2016). Nicola Demidoff e le sue Collezioni nei Documenti Degli Archive di Firenze e di San Pietroburgo. In I Demidoff a Firenze e in Toscana. Firenze, pp. 123.

[4] Zek, Yu. (2008). Nikolay Nikitich Demidov i Yego Zakazy Frantsuzskim Bronzovshchikam (1801–1828 gg.). In Demidovskiy Vremennik: Istoricheskiy al’manakh. Kniga II. Yekaterinburg, pp. 635–687.

[5] Budrina, L. (2016). Lapidaires Parisiens aux services de Nicolas Demidoff: la Collection des Objets en Bronze doré et malachite avec des Mosaïques en Reliefs des Pierres Dures Réalisés par Thomire (d’après les Documents Inédits et les Collections Européennes). In Coquery N., et al. (Eds). Les Progrès de l’industrie Perfectionnée. Luxe, Arts Décoratifs et Innovations de la Révolution Française au Premier Empire, Actes du Colloque. Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Midi, pp. 136–145.

[6] GASO, f. 102, Op. 1, D. 140 Scheta, 1822-1825.

[7] Budrina, L.A. (2018). “Velikolepnyy surtout de table” (1822–1824) po zakazu N.N. Demidova. Zvezda renessansa, vol. 26–27, pp. 196–213.

[8] Haskell, F. (1994). Anatole Demidoff. Prince of San Donato (1812–1870). London (The Wallace Collection): Exh. Cat. London, pp. 70.

[9] La Propriété. (1834). L’Écho du Monde Savant: Journal Analytique des Nouvelles et des Cours Scientifiques, no. 6.

[10] Grice, Count H. le. (1831) No. III. Columns of malachite. Transaction of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, vol. 49, part I (1831–1832), pp. 38–40.

[11] (1826). Diario di Roma, vol. 64, p. 2.

[12] RGADA, f. 1267 Demidovy, op. 2, d. 400, l. 34, 42, 46, 48, 50.

[13] Semenov, V. B. (1987). Malakhit. Kamni Urala. Khronika (Vol. 2). Sverdlovsk: Sredne-Ural’skoye Knizhnoye Izdatel’stvo, pp. 80–87.

[14] (1851). Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nation, Part V. Foreign states. London, pp. 180, 189, 192, 193, 195, 271, 1397.

[15] Budrina, L. A. (2017). Atributsiya Proizvedeniy Russkikh Kamnereznykh Fabrik: Predmet, Eskiz i Problema Avtorstva v Kontekste Kross-kul’turnogo Obmena. Izvestiya Ural’skogo federal’nogo universiteta. Seriya 2. Gumanitarnyye nauki, vol. 19, issue 4, pp. 231–240.

[16] Budrina, L. A. (2013). Ural’skiy sled v Meksike: peripetii kollektsii Demidovykh. Vesi, issue 8, pp. 38–40.

[17] Budrina, L. (2013). La produzione in malachite dei Demidov: sulle trace degli oggetti alla prima esposizione universale. I Demidoff fra Russia e Italia. Gusto e prestigio di une famiglia in Europa dal XVIII al XX secolo. A cura di Lucia Tonini. Cultura e memoria, vol. 50, pp. 151–176.

[18] Budrina, L. A. (2013). Malakhitovaya fabrika Demidovykh: po sledam eksponatov pervoy Vsemirnoy vystavki (London, 1851). In Demidovy v Rossii i Italii. Opyt vzaimnogo vliyaniya rossiyskoy i yevropeyskoy kul’tur v 18–20 vv. na primere neskol’kikh pokoleniy sem’i Demidovykh. Moscow: Kontsept-Media, pp. 259–293.

[19] Budrina, L. A. (2016). Pyat’ malakhitovykh kaminov (proizvedeniya Malakhitovoy fabriki Demidovykh i imperatorskoy Petergofskoy granil’noy fabriki, 1847–1856). Izvestiya Ural’skogo federal’nogo universiteta. Seriya 2. Gumanitarnyye nauki, vol. 18, issue 2, pp. 199–209.

[20] Budrina, L. A. (2012). Atributsiya proizvedeniy malakhitovoy fabriki Demidovykh: eksponat pervoy Vsemirnoy vystavki (London, 1851) v kollektsii knyazey Estergazi. In Conference Proceedings Problemy restavratsii pamyatnikov kul’tury i iskusstva. Yekaterinburg: Tezis Publishing House, pp. 181–185.

[21] Budrina, L. A. (2017). Russkiy malakhit v kollektsiyakh amerikanskikh milliarderov, ot vsemirnykh vystavok do sovetskikh rasprodazh 1910-kh–1930-kh godov. Chelovek v mire kul’tury. Regional’nyye kul’turologicheskiye issledovaniya, issue 2/3 (21), pp. 22–25.