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Sunday, 29 March 2015
Faberge's Flowers Bloom at London Exhibition
Topic: Faberge


Whether a sacred sanctuary, a place for scientific study, a haven for the solitary thinker or a space for pure enjoyment and delight, gardens are where man and nature meet. Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden reveals the way in which gardens have been celebrated in art across four centuries.

Bringing together paintings, botanical studies, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts, the exhibition explores the changing character of the garden from the 16th to the early 20th century. The work of Carl Fabergé is featured in this unique exhibition which opened in London earlier this week.
 
For the past century, his botanical creations for his aristocratic clients throughout Europe, including the crowned heads of Russia and England have been overshadowed by the exquisite Imperial Easter Eggs he created for the Russian Imperial family. Carved from coloured hardstones, Fabergé's flowers are set on gold stems, and embellished with jewels and enamels, these stunning pieces meticulously replicated real botanical specimens.

Nine of Fabergé's floral creations, from the Royal Collection Trust of HM Queen Elizabeth II are on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London, England. 
 

(1) Philadelphus  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, quartzite, olivines | 14.2 x 7.0 x 9.0 cm | RCIN 40252

Description

A design for philadelphus, closely related to this example, exists in an unpublished album of designs from Henrik Wigström’s workshop. Philadelphus, or mock orange, was well known to inhabitants of Russia – particularly in the region of St Petersburg where during the early part of July its intoxicating scent filled gardens and wafted through open windows of dachas and estates. The popularity of the flower explains why several examples were made by Fabergé.

Marked Fabergé in Cyrillic characters

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 

Provenance

Acquired by Queen Alexandra, date unknown

(2) Pansy c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite, brilliant diamond | 10.2 x 3.3 cm | RCIN 40210

Description

All three of the pansy flower groups in the Royal Collection combine the same purple and yellow colours of enamel. The similar treatment of the petals, with variations in tone and combination of matt and polished enamel, would seem to indicate that the enamelling was completed in the same workshop. Indeed, Bainbridge asserts that all the flowers were enamelled by Alexander and Nicholas Petrov and by Boitzov, the main enamellers working for Fabergé. A drawing for a similar pansy exists in an unpublished album of designs from Wigström’s workshops.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection

Provenance

Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(3) Pansy c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite, brilliant diamond | 10.7 x 5.5 x 4.0 cm | RCIN 40505

Description

The pansy was almost as popular as the philadelphus in Russia, flowering in spring and early summer and during the White Nights of high midsummer. This example shows the remarkable skill of the enameller in imitating the papery matt surface of the petals. It is one of three Fabergé pansies in the Royal Collection owned by Queen Alexandra.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection

Provenance

Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953
 

(4) Convolvulus  c. 1900
Bowenite, gold, nephrite, enamel, rose diamond | 11.1 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm | RCIN 8943

Description

Convolulus, two flower heads of pale blue and two of pink enamel with one white bud, all with rose diamond centres; 13 leaves of nephrite on gold stalks climbing up an oyster enamel pole, all set in simulated soil and a bowenite trough.

King George V and Queen Mary added further examples to the remarkable collection of Fabergé flowers formed by Queen Alexandra. This study formerly belonged to Vita Sackville-West (the Hon. Mrs Nicolson, 1892–1962), the doyenne of twentieth-century English gardenwriters. The flowers are of enamelled gold centred with rose diamonds, while the leaves are of white nephrite. The plant sits in a bowenite trough, and when Queen Mary acquired it was mounted on a further base of white jade, since lost. The convolvulus was purchased from the London branch in 1908 for £35 by a member of the Sackville-West family. It was subsequently owned by Sir Bernard Eckstein, sold at Sotheby’s on 8 February 1949 and presented to Queen Mary for her birthday on 26 May 1949 by the royal family.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 

Provenance

Bought by Hon. Vita Sackville-West (the Hon. Mrs. Harold Nicolson) from Fabergé's London branch, 30 March 1908 (£35); Sir Bernard Eckstein; Sotheby's 1949, lot 119; presented by the royal family to Queen Mary on her birthday, 26 May 1949.

(5) Rosebuds c. 1900
Gold, enamel, nephrite, rock crystal | 12.3 x 7.7 x 4.5 cm | RCIN 40216

Description

A spray of two rosebuds of opaque pink and translucent green enamel, with two sets of nephrite leaves on red gold stalks, set in a tapering vase of rock crystal. 

Provenance

Acquired by Queen Alexandra, date unknown

(6) Wild roses c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite and brilliant diamonds. | 14.8 x 7.8 x 6.4 cm | RCIN 8958

Description

A spray of three wild roses of opaque pink enamel with brilliant diamond centres and red-gold stamens, two sets of three nephrite leaves on red gold stalks in a trumpet shape rock crystal vase. A similar realistically modelled study exists in the India Early Minshall Collection, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. A previously unpublished drawing from an album of designs executed by Henrik Wigström relates closely to this flower study.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 

Provenance

Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953
 

(7) Wild rose c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, enamel, diamonds | 14.6 x 5.9 x 4.0 cm | RCIN 40223

Description

A single wild rose of pink and white opaque enamel with red gold stamens and brilliant diamond centre, one set of three nephrite leaves on a green gold stalk, set into a rock crystal jar. 

Provenance

Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(8) Bleeding heart  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, rhodonite, quartzite | 19.0 x 15.3 x 6.2 cm | RCIN 40502

Description

A double spray of bleeding hearts, carved in rhodonite and quartzite, with three sets of three carved nephrite leaves on dull green gold stalks in a rock crystal vase

Queen Mary acquired this study of bleeding heart in 1934. The nephrite leaves are carved to show the characteristic shape and veins of the plant and the bell-shaped flowers are made of carved and polished rhodonite with quartzite stamens. To ensure that the flower is as true to nature as possible, the flowers are suspended from gold stems, articulated en tremblant so that they can move gently, as if blown by the wind.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 

Provenance

Acquired by Queen Mary, 1934

(9) Lily of the valley  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, pearls, rose diamonds | 14.5 x 7.8 x 5.5 cm | RCIN 40217

Description

The delicate lily of the valley was the favourite flower of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. The imperial family, like other members of the wealthy in Russian society, were able to afford flowers imported from the south of France, which were kept on ice to preserve their freshness during the long train journey to Russia. Fabergé was able to replicate the charm and beauty of flowers through the ingenious use of precious metal and stones. The stems of this flower are of gold, the leaves of Siberian nephrite and the bell-shaped flowers of pearl edged with tiny rose diamonds, all resting in a vase of rock crystal carved to replicate the refraction of a flower stem in water. This flower was purchased by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna in December 1899 for 250 roubles and is presumed to have been a gift to Queen Alexandra.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 

Provenance

Queen Alexandra, by whom bequeathed to Princess Victoria; King George V

The exhibition Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden runs from Friday, 20 March 2015 to Sunday, 11 October 2015 at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London, England. 
 
© Royal Collection Trust and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 March, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:36 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 6:41 AM EDT
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