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Lillian Thomas Pratt Personal Papers (SC-07)

 Item — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SC-07

Scope and Content Note

The collection’s inclusive dates are 1901-1947, with the bulk of the material dating from 1933-1945. The collection is comprised of correspondence, invoices, price tags, item descriptions, exhibition labels, estate tax information and inventories, newspaper clippings, drawings and photographs.

Dates

  • 1901-1947

Creator

Access

The collection is open for research.

Digitization of the collection has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The digital collection can be accessed through the VMFA Collections Search website.

Publication

The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Digitized content is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License. The only exception are the letters written by Alexander and Ray Schaffer, in which the Schaffer family retains copyright ownership. Transmission or reproduction of other materials protected by copyright, beyond that allowed by fair use, requires the researcher to obtain permission of copyright holders.

Biographical Note

Two months after Lillian Thomas Pratt’s death in June 1947, her stunning and expansive collection of Fabergé artworks were unexpectedly bequeathed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Thought to have been born in 1876 in Philadelphia, details of Pratt’s life still remain sketchy and limited. By 1900, she was working as a stenographer at the Puget Sound Flouring Mill, and in 1917, married her second husband, John Lee Pratt, a self-made millionaire engineer and businessman with General Motors. By 1931, they had settled at Chatham Manor in John’s native Virginia, and Pratt spent over a decade amassing a collection of over 500 items, eighty percent of which is Russian decorative art, mainly Fabergé.

Pratt began collecting while accompanying her husband on business trips to New York City, shopping in her spare time, and possibly becoming enchanted with the Hammer Galleries’ “Russian Imperial Exhibit” at Lord and Taylor in the early 1930s. While the total amount she spent during that time is unknown, she spent $100,000 alone at New York City’s Schaffer Collection. She simultaneously purchased items, including four of her five imperial Easter eggs, from the Hammer Galleries. Her collection includes not only the finest imperial eggs, but also miniature eggs, jewelry, framed photographs, boxes, handles, flowers, and animal figures, among many other types of objects. Whatever her collecting may have been (besides simply furnishing her new home), her fascination with Russian royalty was enduring, and has been shared with museum visitors for over 60 years.

Source: Fabergé: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes (15 folders), 1 oversize item and 1 binder)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

The collection documents the formation of the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Fabergé decorative artworks at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Bequeathed to the museum upon her death in 1947, Pratt’s Fabergé collection consistently remains one of the highlights of the museum’s permanent collection. Pratt purchased most of her Fabergé collection from the Schaffer Collection and Hammer Galleries, both of New York City, in the 1930s and 1940s. Comprised of correspondence, invoices, price tags, and detailed item descriptions, this collection illuminates Pratt’s mind as a collector, as well as her relationship with one of her dealers, Alexander Schaffer.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into five series, and items are generally arranged chronologically within each series. Price tags are arranged numerically by item number. Items with no date are placed at the end at each series.
Series 1
Schaffer Collection, 1934-1947, undated
Series 2
Hammer Galleries, 1933-1945, undated
Series 3
Estate, 1932-1947, undated
Series 4
Clippings, 1932-1937, undated
Series 5
Museum Records, 1936-1947, undated

Provenance

The collection was transferred over time to the VMFA Library in the 2000s by museum staff members Dr. David Park Curry, Curator of the Fabergé collection, David Bradley, Foundation Director, and Richard Woodward, Deputy Director for Architecture and Design. The estate tax information was given to Woodward from the Honorable John D. Butzner, Jr. in the 1970s. The bulk of the collection was accessioned into the VMFA Archives’ collection in February 2011. In January 2015, an additional collection of original documents were transferred from the Curatorial files to the Pratt collection.

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Pratt's Personal Library

  • The Fall of the Romanoffs: How the Ex-Empress & Rasputine Caused the Russian Revolution, 1917
  • Confessions of the Czarina, 1918
  • Mother Dear: The Empress Marie of Russia and Her Times, 1926
  • The Tragic Bride: The Story of the Empress Alexandra of Russia, 1927
  • The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, 1928
  • The Intimate Life of the Last Tzarina, 1928
  • The Real Romanovs, as Revealed by the Late Czar's Physician and His Son, 1931
  • Russia - My Home: An Intimate Record of Personal Experiences Before, During and After the Bolshevist Revolution, 1931
  • Education of a Princess: A Memoir, 1931
  • A Princess in Exile, 1932
  • Twice Seven, 1937
  • Russian Imperial Treasures: Collection of Lillian T. Pratt, undated

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Catalogs

  • Imperial Russian Easter Eggs Presented by Tsar Nikolai II, 1940
  • Handbook of the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection: Russian Imperial Jewels, 1960
  • Fabergé: A Catalog of the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Russian Imperial Jewels, 1976
  • Fabergé: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1995
  • Fabergé Revealed: At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2011

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Video

  • Lillian Thomas Pratt's Fabergé: Shopping, Collecting, Remembering, 1996

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Exhibition Files

  • Selections from the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Jewels, 1947
  • 12th Anniversary Exhibition: The Pratt Collection of Jewels, 1948
  • Imperial Russian Easter Eggs, 1949
  • Imperial Russian Easter Eggs, 1950
  • Imperial Russian Easter Eggs, 1951
  • Imperial Russian Easter Eggs, 1952
  • Jewelry by Fabergé, 1953
  • Jewels by Fabergé, 1954
  • Fabergé in America and the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Fabergé, 1996
  • Fabergé Revealed, 2011

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Subject Files

  • VMFA Collections: Decorative Arts: Metalwork: Fabergé
  • VMFA Donors: Pratt, John Lee and Lillian Thomas
  • VMFA Gallery Design: Fabergé

Related Materials - Library of Virginia

  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director’s Correspondence, 1936-1976 (Coll. No. 33863 and 44067)
  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition Files, 1936-1992 (Coll No. 31633, 32958, 33041, 33160, 34679, 36342, 36957 and 37636)

Processing Note

A large number of publications (almost entirely sales and exhibition catalogs) were interfiled into this collection over the years. None of the publications indicated that they were actually Pratt’s personal copies, and almost all had been stamped by the VMFA Library or other departments. Therefore, all of the publications were removed and added to the VMFA Library’s holdings during processing. A complete list of these publications is available from the Archivist.
Title
Finding Aids to Special Collections in the VMFA Archives | Lillian Thomas Pratt Personal Papers
Subtitle
Special Collection 07 (SC-07)
Status
Completed
Author
Courtney Yevich Tkacz, VMFA Archivist
Date
2011, 2015
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Archives Repository

Contact:
Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library
200 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond VA 23220-4007 United States
804-340-1495