Friendship album for Princess Elisabeth of Prussia.
4to (259 x 182 mm). 4 vols. Altogether 369 ff. with 145 entries. With 13 full-page gouaches and ornamental frames on each leaf, all heightend in gold. Contemporary red velvet with gilt-stamped spines and silk moiré endpapers. All edges gilt. Stored in custom-made slipcase.
Exceedingly prestigious and luxurious friendship album with the signatures of Alexander II and Alexander III of Russia, the German Emperor Wilhelm I, Queen Victoria, seven kings including Frederick William IV of Prussia, Ludwig I, Maximilian II, and Ludwig II of Bavaria, five empresses including Alexandra Feodorovna, Maria Alexandrovna, and Elisabeth of Austria, seven queens consort, and several ruling princes.
The album is beautifully illuminated by the eminent Russian architect and designer Ippolit Monighetti, who was also responsible for the sumptuous book decorations of the famous imperial coronation album of Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna published in 1856. It is organized as a calendar, each volume comprising three months and each month being represented by a title gouache with biblical quotes and illustrations and one decorated page for each day. An additional title gouache in the first volume shows the calendar year 1855 and the arms of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, as Elisabeth of Prussia (1815-85) was by marriage a Princess of Hesse and by Rhine. The Hessian Lion reappears in the illustration for November, whereas the illustration for June includes a beautiful veduta of St Petersburg. Monighetti signed the title gouache as well as those for January and February; the latter is additionally dated to 1853, which indicates the time and effort invested in this exceptional work of art.
The 145 entries - mostly from members of the aristocracy, of which 131 could be identified - are unrelated to the calendar. They include, in volume I (January-March): Maria Alexandrovna, née Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, Empress of Russia (1824-80), her son Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia (1850-1908), Duke Elimar of Oldenburg (1844-95), Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Princess of Orléans (1814-58), Princess Sophie of Bavaria, Archduchess of Austria (1805-72), Maria Anna of Bavaria, Queen of Saxony (1805-77), Alexandrine of Prussia, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1803-92) and her son, Grand Duke Frederick Francis II (1823-83), Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, Empress of Austria (1792-1873), Louise Frederica of Anhalt-Dessau, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (1798-1858), Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine (1823-88), Emperor Alexander III of Russia (1845-94), Luitpold, Prince regent of Bavaria (1821-1912), Caroline of Hesse-Homburg (1819-72), Adelgunde of Bavaria, Duchess of Modena (1823-1914), and German Emperor Wilhelm I (1797-1888).
Among the signatories of volume II (April-June) are Alexander of Battenberg, Prince of Bulgaria (1857-93), Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia (1847-1909), Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine (1843-78), Ferdinand, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg (1783-1866), Otto of Bavaria (1848-1916), later king but who never actively ruled because of his mental state, Emperor Alexander II of Russia (1818-81), Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850-1942), Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia (1857-1905), Archduke Ludwig Viktor of Austria (1842-1919), Princess Sophie of Sweden, Grand Duchess of Baden (1801-65), Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Anna of Hesse and by Rhine, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1843-65), Princess Helena of the United Kingdom (1846-1923), King Otto of Greece (1815-67), Louis III, Grand Duke of Hesse (1806-77), and Prince Charles of Prussia (1801-83).
Volume III (July-September) comprises the signatures of Prince Karl Theodor of Bavaria (1795-1875), Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine (1866-1953), Alexandra Feodorovna, née Princess Charlotte of Prussia, Empress of Russia (1798-1860), Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine (1823-88) and his daughter Princess Marie of Battenberg (1852-1923), Prince Adalbert of Bavaria (1828-75), Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, Duchess of Cambridge (1797-1889), Carola of Vasa, Queen of Saxony (1833-1907), Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1844-1900), King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868) and the later King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-86) on one leaf, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden (1789-1860), Princess Ludovika of Bavaria (1808-92), the mother of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden (1826-1907), Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, Queen of Württemberg (1822-92), Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (1837-92), and the German Empress Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1811-90).
The fourth and final volume (October-December) includes signatures by Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia (1860-1919), King Frederick William IV of Prussia (1795-1861), Marie of Prussia, Queen of Bavaria (1825-89), Frederick William, Elector of Hesse (1802-75), again Maria Alexandrovna and her daughter, the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1853-1920), Prince Gustav Vasa (1799-1877), Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria, Queen of Prussia (1801-73) and her sister Amalie Auguste of Bavaria, Queen of Saxony (1801-77) on a single leaf, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (1833-97), King Maximilian II of Bavaria (1811-64), King John of Saxony (1801-73), Amalia of Oldenburg, Queen of Greece (1818-75), and Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-98). The final entry was written by Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.
Ippolit Monighetti studied design at the Stroganov Art School in Moscow and later architecture at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. He started his career as an architect with several villas for the Russian nobility in Tsarkoye Selo (Pushkin). These early successes led to his discovery by Emperor Nicholas I, who commissioned Monighetti with the design of the Turkish Bath in Catherine Park in 1850. Many prestigious commissions followed, both for architecture and design, by members of the Romanov family including Emperor Alexander II. The commission of the friendship album for Elisabeth of Prussia was certainly facilitated by Elisabeth's close family ties to the Russian imperial family: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was Elisabeth's cousin, whereas Alexandra's daughter-in-law Empress Maria Alexandrovna, who left three entries in the album, was a sister of Elisabeth's husband Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine. Although it is the only book known to have been illuminated by Monighetti, the intricate ornaments closely resemble his book decorations for the lithographed coronation album of Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna. Thus, the friendship album of Princess Elisabeth of Prussia is not only unique in the scope of its signatories but also closely connected to one of the most famous illustrated books of the 19th century.
Insignificant chafing to the title illustration for October. Overall very well preserved. Provenance: removed from the library of the Barons de Bassus at Schloss Sandersdorf.