Woerffel bronze and lapidary art factory

The history

The factory dates its history back to 1842, when the worker in bronze Fyodor Woerffel established his own workshop together with Johann Gesserich.  F. Werfel died in 1857, leaving the enterprise to his partner, who was his son trustee. Carl Fedorovich got his education in the Imperial Academy of Art in Saint Petersburg, later he studied in Germany. Carl’s creative debut happened at the industrial manufacture exhibition in 1849, where he exhibited gilded bronze and malachite clock and candelabrum under his name. Since 1873, the young man became the owner of the enterprise and renamed it into “C.F. Woerffel”. It was the period when the enterprise reached fullest flourishing and became famous in Russia and abroad.

Production of high artistic merit bronze and lapidary art items comprised the core of Carl Woerffel factory. In the 1860-1870s, the range was expanded by introduction of small statuary, which became especially popular in this period and was in great demand. Russian bourgeois were the main customers. It is considered that attention of the new well-educated generation formed the social procurement for the creation of decorative art items in the National style. The craftsmen working at the factory were extensively reproducing the Russian style in art bronze, preserving wide selection of products and reproducing the common European historical styles. Repeatedly the company received awards at the national and international exhibitions.

The changes inspired by the national theme, emerged in the 1870s. Along with the traditional functional objects, small statuary items turn into distinctive and singular ones. The subject and content of indoor sculpture (small statuary) reflected the scenes and archetypes from the Russian history and folklore, ethnographic images from the everyday life of the Russian Empire national ethos. Hunt episodes and animalier art became peculiar brand identity, making Russian bronze distinctive at the exhibitions in the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries.

Carl Woerffel actively developed his factory. In 1880, eighty people worked there, and production release was 160 thousand rubles a year. The fact that the factory was engaged both in bronze casting and lapidary art production gave it a sizable advantage. This agglutination allowed producing art items, in which bronze and ornamental stones were combined, without outside help.

Moreover, the merit of Carl Woerffel was in the fact that he actively involved Russian sculptors, modelists and painters to the process of production. The contract that restricted sculptors to convey casting molds to other factories, defended manufacturers. However, in practice, the masters anyhow collaborated with other manufacturers, but under another names. Supposedly, Eugene Lanceray who had a contract with the Chopin factory conveyed his molds to Woerffel factory, hiding under the name of Eugene Naps.

Many sculptors that collaborated with the Woerffel factory were fond of portraying historical figures. Nikolay Lieberich depicted the Queen of the Amazons Penfesileia, Hetman Ivan Mazepa; Vasily Grachev chose Ivan the Terrible; Robert Bach embodied a brilliant assemblage of the famous artists, writers and composers; Artemy Aubert - Empress Catherine II and so on.

The subjects and Production technique were changing. Patination (obtaining of greenish or brownish shades of bronze) was implemented widely gilding in the Russian art bronze in the 1860-1880s, alongside with electrotype. The Woerffel factory produced highly artistic and modern items. The factory had to compete with such well-known Russian enterprises, as the Chopin factory and the Moran workshop, and to compete with them in bronze casting quality. For example, at the exhibition of 1882, held in Moscow, Carl Woerffel exhibited bronze ware, lapidary art works and hybrid products. Experts noted that the sculptures cast at the Woerffel factory were compared in quality to the products of Moran and Chopin factories.

The attempt execute mass-production of the most popular items by the best Russian sculptors was made in the 1890s and in the early 20th century. The quality of casting and chasing was simplified in order to reduce the manufacturing cost; thoroughness of modeling was lost, the details were removed. A unique or singleton creation, that required elaborate manual work, were made strictly for exhibitions or shows displaying or created on a by-order basis. Cheaper factory-supplied products was pushing out this kind of products. Those trends did not bypass the Woerffel factory.

Since 1880, lapidary works of art were sold under the name "Gesserich and Woerffel." Woerffel received Gold medal lapidary works at the Moscow exhibition of 1882. His products were known in England, Germany and the USA, what was a rarity for the Russian stone carvers. Active participation in the international exhibitions provided the factory with orders. The firms of Faberge and Cartier constantly ordered lapidary works of art from Woerffel. The variety of ornamental stones processed by the factory, increased with the growth of production volume. Woerffel presented works from jasper, jade, lapis lazuli, malachite and a number of other stones at the At the exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.

The Woerffel factory had the title of the Official Supplier of the Imperial Court (since 1895). Until 1908, this factory carried out the majority of stone-carving work for Faberge, and in 1914, Faberge acquired it.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection