Russia's 'forgotten last Tsar' - Michael II's letters star in $400,000 Geneva sale

Winning the rights to host the 2018 World Cup, eyebrow-raising comments by US Ambassadors on Julian Assange's Wikileaks website, and multi-million pound London art auctions... It can't be denied that Russia has been making its presence felt over the past week.

Now Geneva-based based auction firm has Hôtel des Ventes has added to the buzz surrounding Russia with its sale of a highly important and unique collection of extensive correspondence, photographs and drawings. In the end, the collection brought almost four times it pre-sale estimate.

It comprised correspondences between H.I.H Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, H.I.H Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, H.I.H Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and H.I.H Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and their private tutor Mr Ferdinand Thormeyer of Switzerland.

Grand Duke Mikhail's letters were among the historic lots at Hôtel des Ventes

Overall, 35 letters by written by Grand Duke Mikhail between 1902 and 1911 emerged as the highest lot, selling for 34,000 Swiss francs (about $34,600) above their estimated 5,000-8,000 pre-sale value.

Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich of Russia remains something of an untapped, even forgotten, niche for collectors of historic Russian memorabilia.

Mikhael originally succeeded his grandfather, Alexander II, as reigning Emperor of All the Russians, but deferred his acceptance of the throne until an elected assembly was approved. Before being confirmed as Emperor, Mikhael was murdered in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Given that his reign lasted only a few hours, Mikhail is today an often overlooked footnote in Russia history, overshadowed by his brother Nicholas II who became Russia's last de facto Tsar following Mikhail's death.

Sketches from Mikhail's childhood proved popular among collectors

Nevertheless he is sometimes referred to by historians as Michael II, and his memory apparently burned strong at Hôtel des Ventes' Geneva sale.

Elsewhere, 38 letters spanning Grand Duke Mikhail's childhood, written between 1892 and 1899, were estimated at 5,000-8,000 and brought 29,000 Swiss francs (nearly $29,600). Also from Mikhail's childhood were 35 notes and drawings, which impressively exceeded their 400-600 estimate to bring 16,800 Swiss francs ($17,100).

Also auctioned was a unique piece of memorabilia: a rose gold and silver cigarette case presented by Nicholas II and his brother Grand Duke George to their tutor, estimated at 5,000-8,000 and sold for 32,800 ($33,400) Swiss francs.

In total, the sale netted 390,000 Swiss francs (just over $397,500).


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