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10 Ruble by Dassier - Icon of Russia-Numismatics

Dassier's 10 rouble piece, an icon of Russian numismatics in the Felzmann auction.

Record hammer price in the 2022 autumn auction

Particularly eagerly awaited was the catalogue cover piece, the rare Dassiers 10 rouble design from 1757 (lot 730, estimate: 150.000 Euro), which found its way onto our cover photo through the recommendation of a high-ranking collector.

Four telephone bidders were ready and bids were also made in the room. After a heated bidding battle, the hammer finally fell at the auction desk of auctioneer Peter B. Feuser at the record hammer price of 260,000 euros. The coin thus goes to a new collector who can rejoice over the particularly beautiful specimen, which was only recently graded at NGC with a condition of AU 55.

After the auction, there was also a toast in the auction room to the winning bid.

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Image: Wikipedia

Midsummer 1756 - a ship sails towards Tsarist Russia. On it Jacques-Antoine Dassier, son of the famous Geneva medallist Jean Dassier. After crossing into the Baltic Sea, the sea voyage is calm but hot and Dassier Jr. has to adjust from the cool and foggy conditions in his previous place of work, London.

Weeks before, Tsarina Elisabeth had summoned him to her court and the 40-year-old artist was only too happy to accept the call after George II had let him go with a heavy heart. Perhaps his work at the Royal Mint, which he had been doing since 1740, no longer filled him up. It may also have been the attraction of the distant and as yet unknown East that led the young man to pull up stakes in Western Europe. He left behind London, Rome, Paris (where he met Montesquieu, among others, and made a portrait of him) and his native city of Geneva, and set out for unfamiliar territory.

The way there had been paved for Jacques-Antoine by the Geneva goldsmith Jérémie Pauzié, who in 1750 and 1751 had brought high-quality products from the Dassier workshop from the slopes of the Jura to the Baltic Sea and presented them to Tsarina Elisabeth at the St. Petersburg court. At least that is how Pauzié describes it in his memoirs. Actually, the young Dassier was supposed to teach at a new art academy in St. Petersburg. At least that is how Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov, a favourite and lover of the Tsarina, imagined it. At the same time, Shuvalov was a representative of the Russian Enlightenment. Jacques-Antoine Dassier was put in charge of the Swabian Jakob Stählin, with whom he got on excellently and to whose records we owe many details about Dassier's life and work at the Russian court.

As soon as he arrived in St. Petersburg, Dassier took up work and, in addition to the task of passing on his "art of engraving coins and medals to as many Russian pupils as required", he devoted himself to various projects: in 1758 he created a medal on his patron Shuvalov, which is extremely rare today, engraved other sought-after medals, designed a new die for rouble coins (Bitkin 189) and he created the 10 rouble piece which is offered in Felzmann's 176th auction.

Dassier received a truly princely salary of 2,500 roubles for his work as well as 250 Dutch ducats per year, from 1758 even 3,000 roubles per year. However, his artistic successes and his popularity at the Russian court could not prevent his tuberculosis, which had been smouldering for some time, from weakening him more and more. The artist was no longer able to carry out his planned participation in a planned medal suite of 150-180 pieces. In the autumn of 1759, he left St. Petersburg on a British ship, intending to return home. This was not to be granted to him any longer. He made it with difficulty to Copenhagen, where he died of tuberculosis at the residence of the Danish Prime Minister on 21 October 1759 at the age of only 43.

We now have one of Dassier's most important creations: his 10 rouble piece of 1757. The offered specimen is NGC graded and is in extremely fine condition with a condition of AU 55. The starting price of € 150,000 is very moderate and it is to be hoped that this coin will receive the attention that this numismatic and historical rarity deserves!

Empress Elizabeth I of Russia, painting by Charles André van Loo, 1760 (Image: Wikipedia)
Lot 730, Auction 176, Starting price: 150,000 Euro

Video: How the piece of Dassier's 10 roubles came into auction

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