Russia’s first Faberge Museum has opened in the renovated Shuvalov Palace on the banks of the Fontanka river, in St. Petersburg
The following article was originally published in the December 25th, 2013 edition of the St. Petersburg Times. The author Tatyana Poznyak owns the copyright presented below.
Within the stately halls of the renovated Shuvalov Palace on the banks of the Fontanka river, Russia’s first Faberge Museum has been established by The Link of Times cultural and historical foundation.
Founded in 2004 by Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, the foundation engages in projects related to the return of lost objects of cultural and historical significance to Russia. The most remarkable step the foundation has taken so far is the sensational acquisition by Vekselberg of the work by Carl Faberge (1846-1920), the Russian court jeweler.
Until 2004, the exceptional collection belonged to the heirs of the American newspaper magnate Malcolm Forbes, who for more than half a century collected the royal jewels. As a result of the Vekselberg acquisition, the legendary Forbes collection was saved from being broken up and then repatriated. It is this collection that has now become the nucleus of the display currently on view at the Shuvalov Palace, which was restored by the foundation for the purpose of housing the precious exhibits. The exhibition includes 4,000 works of decorative and fine art: Gold and silver jewelry, painting, porcelain and bronze. The collection, which took decades to assemble and continues to grow, is presented for the first time in the new Faberge Museum on Fontanka which, during the Soviet period, housed the Museum of Daily Life and then the House of Friendship and Peace.
At a conference that preceded the opening of the museum on Nov. 19, Vekselberg said that the event was an important milestone both for him personally and for everyone involved in this large-scale project. The founder of The Link of Times spoke with gratitude of former Governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matvienko, who supported the idea of creating the museum in the former Shuvalov Palace and transferred control of the neglected building to the foundation. Reflecting on the challenging restoration of the historical interiors, which in 2006 employed several hundred restorers, Vekselberg said that he was pleased to see the full splendor of the palace reflected in a collection that is an integral part of Russian culture. To Vekselberg’s way of thinking, the Faberge Museum should become an active element of the city’s cultural life and add a new dimension to the city’s appeal.
“St. Petersburg is a city of museums, and I would like to see the Faberge Museum become an integral part of its historical and cultural space,” said Vekselberg.
Respected art historian and curator of the Faberge collection at the Moscow Kremlin, Tatyana Muntyan reminded the first visitors to the new museum that the Shuvalov Palace had for centuries belonged to the famous noble families of Vorontsov, Naryshkin and Shuvalov. Throughout its history, the palace had been filled with masterpieces of decorative art and has now once again become the repository of artistic treasures. She also noted that the collection of work by the world-famous Russian jeweler on display had been shown in many Russian cities but only now finds itself at home.
The collection of rarities, positioned across several galleries on the second floor of the Shuvalov Palace, is, without a doubt, one of the best of its kind in the world. The palace’s ceremonial Blue Hall contains vitrines filled with Faberge’s most famous bejeweled and enameled creations – the renowned imperial Easter eggs. These jewels, with their intricate surprises, are particularly valuable because of how they depict important events in Russian history: The coronation of the last Russian tsar, the 15th anniversary of the reign of Nicholas II and the First World War. In addition to the eggs made for the last Romanovs, the collection also contains Easter gifts the family gave to their friends and supporters, which are no less spectacular than the imperial objects.
The museum also contains some of Faberge’s most famous objets de fantaisie, including a bouquet of precious pansies in a vase made of rock crystal that looks as if it is filled with water, and a unique dancing figure made of different semi-precious stones, which wears jewelry and fantastic accessories. The display also showcases desktop clocks, enameled frames and silver pieces in the “original Russian style.”
According to Vekselberg, the members of the foundation spent the last nine years collecting the unique exhibits, “researching, acquiring and repatriating historically significant Russian works of art found abroad.” Among these findings were a miniature egg that belonged to the Greek King George I, brother of the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna, objects created for Baron Leopold de Rothschild, mechanical playthings and other memorabilia.
In addition to rare works by Faberge, the Vekselberg collection also includes work by many other suppliers to the court, including the famous silversmiths Kurlyukov, Kuzmichyov and Semenova, jewelers from the Bolin family, and the goldsmiths Keibel and Spiegel. These and other renowned Russian goldsmiths and silversmiths made precious icons frames, some of which belonged to famous historical figures. In the Gothic Hall at the Shuvalov Palace, which was once the office of the count, there is a collection of ecclesiastical utensils. The museum also houses a collection of painted enamel by Fedor Rueckert, which has no equal in Russia in its breadth and rarity.
The pride of the remaining collections is a pair of monumental porcelain vases created by the Imperial Porcelain Factory. One of the pair depicts palace grenadiers in the throne room of the Winter Palace, while the other shows grenadiers in the throne room of the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The vases were presented to Casimir-Louis-Victurnien de Rochechouart de Mortemart, the French ambassador to Russia, by Emperor Nicholas I. Rounding out the permanent display, the Exhibition, Knight and other halls of the palace are hung with canvases by famous Russian and European painters, including Makovsky, Aivazovsky, Byullov, Korovin, Martin, Renoir and others.
The cave of Ali Baba pales in comparison to the glittering new Faberge Museum, which is now housed in St. Petersburg. Operating reduced hours through the end of the year while the museum finds its feet, regular opening hours are expected to be announced after the start of the new year.
For more information on the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg, please refer to the following articles;
© St. Petersburg Times. 26 December, 2013