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The Russian Agricultural Merit Order - 1913
 

Before traveling to a foreign country the serious collector of order decorations and medals always plans visits to various museums in advanced. Leaving for America in 1997, it was quite handy that the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) had recently published in its circular a very nice article about the Hillwood museum in Washington, DC, which was immediately highlighted on the "places to visit" list.

 

Appointments were required those days and while we had to wait for our turn to visit the grounds and buildings after our arrival I picked up the brochure "Fabergé at Hillwood" since it talked about the following:

 

"Fabergé was not among the firms that regularly produced orders of merit, but the Hillwood collection includes a rare insignia of distinction in Agriculture (fig 28), its badge enameled in striking bright green color. Nicholas II presented it in 1915 to Evgenia Lazareva, who donated her husband's stud farm to the empire to help improve the breed of horses in Russia. The horses from this racing stable were later evacuated to Poland in late 1918 or early 1919, and Madame Lazareva donated them to the Polish government in 1920."

 

Fig. 28 (top) INSIGNIA OF DISTINCTION IN AGRICULTURE

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens; Photo by Ed Owen

 

Fig. 28 (top) INSIGNIA OF DISTINCTION IN AGRICULTURE 1913; Gold, enamel, silk H. 2½in. (6.4 cm), W. 1¾ in. (4.5 cm); 18.68 Nicholas II awarded this honor to Madame Lazareva in 1915, after she donated her stud horses to the empire to improve the nation's breeding stock."[1]

 

This rare badge was indeed on display among other beautiful order decorations and artifacts in the Icon Room at the Hillwood museum:

 

The Icon Room at the Hillwood museum in Washington, DC

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens; Photo by Ed Owen

 

My collectors mind being bombarded with an unlimited supply of St.Andrew, St. Alexander Nevsky, St.George, St.Vladimir, St. Katherine and St.Anne decorations for non-Christians, Christians with and without diamonds kept for some odd reason only that plain designed green cross in mind. Little did I know that I would stumble across a second class badge about a decade later:

 

Russia - Order of Agricultural Merit second Class (avers)

Russia - Order of Agricultural Merit second Class (revers)

 

This particular piece made completely from silver was also manufactured in Fabergé's firm. In 2010 I was able to compare it with the example of the first class at the Hillwood collection in order to find out that both pieces originated from the same set of tools. While the second class badge showed the manufacturer mark (Fabergé), year and silver marks on the oak leaf suspender and the cross, markings on the golden first class were only applied to the reverse of the suspender.

 

Following a unfortunately black and white only scan of the first class decoration as displayed in the Hillwood collection:

 

Russia - Order of Agricultural Merit first Class (avers)

Russia - Order of Agricultural Merit first Class (revers)

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens; Photo by Ed Owen

 

Interestingly enough both pieces are suspended from a silk ribbon, as described in Anne Odom's booklet.

 

Award document to Wera Valerianonva, who received the second class on February 27, 1914.

 

INSIGNIA OF DISTINCTION IN AGRICULTURE

 

The award was founded on February 14, 1914, in three classes. The first class as described above was awarded 15 times, the second class also pictured above 117 times and the third class, a silver medal, featuring the enameled cross on its avers 68 times. All grades show the inscription: "21 February 1913" and "For the works on agriculture" on the reverse.

Following the silver medal:

 

Agricultural Merit Agricultural Merit

 

[1] Fabergé at Hillwood; by Anne Odom, The Hillwood Collections Series, 1996, page 56.

[2] Silver Merit medal as offered at Künker Auktion 265, September 26, 2015

© A. Schulze Ising, I/13


 
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