The World of Faberge Comes to Vienna Topic: Faberge
Over 160 loans from the Kremlin Museums and the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow showcase Fabergé’s virtuosity
As part of the Russian-Austrian Cultural Season the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna presents the work of Carl Fabergé, probably Russia’s leading and most influential jeweller and goldsmith at the turn of the 20th century.
The name Fabergé conjures up exceptional creations, virtuoso craftsmanship that combines outstanding artistic and technical skill with the finest materials. This is particularly true of the work produced by Peter Carl Fabergé following his appointment as court jeweller to the last Russian Tsar in 1885. Under him the House of Fabergé grew into one of the largest contemporary jewellery companies, at times employing over five hundred goldsmiths, stone cutters and jewellers from different countries. The company worked for the imperial Russian court and other European dynasties, for the nobility, plutocrats and financial magnates, but they also produced less exalted work designed for the Russian bourgeoisie.
Over 160 loans from the Kremlin Museums and the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow showcase Fabergé’s virtuosity, placing him in the context of contemporary Russian goldsmith work; another focus is the role of the imperial family. Four Imperial Easter eggs form the centre of the show - precious objets d’art commissioned by the Imperial family that frequently contain a world en miniature, a microcosm.
Other artefacts that once belonged to members of the House of Romanov, treasured possessions that stayed with them until their final days, offer fascinating insights into life, both private and ceremonial, at the imperial court. We also showcase hardstone carvings by Fabergé and the imperial manufactories at Petergof and Yekaterinburg, documenting the continued popularity in late-nineteencentury Russia of an art form closely connected with Kunstkammer collections.
And, last but not least, Fabergé’s multi-facetted oeuvre is juxtaposed with the work of other Russian imperial jewellers such as Bolin, Carl Blank, Pavel Ovchinnikov or Ivan Khlebnikov, inviting visitors to enjoy and appreciate the outstanding technical and artistic virtuosity of late-nineteenth-century Russian jewellers, first celebrated in 1873 at the World Fair in Vienna.
The origin of the Syserti Porcelain Factory in Ekaterinburg actually began back in 1928. During the Soviet years it was merged with other porcelain manufacturers in the region, until 1960 when the group was renamed Syserti. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ural factory began production of everything from porcelain iconostasis to beautiful coffee and tea services and Orthodox souvenirs. These photographs show just some of the beautiful items created by Syserti, which depict the images of the Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their four daughters, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their only son and heir to the throne, Tsesarevich Alexis.
St. Petersburg Before the Great War: The Point of No Return Topic: St. Petersburg
St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg before the Great War, 1914
The following article was originally published in the February 2nd, 2014 edition of the Russian publication, Ogonek Magazine. The author of this article, Lev Lurye owns the copyright presented below.
The first six months of 1914 were a kind of calm before the storm, but when the imperial capital of St. Petersburg exploded in July, the results were swift and catastrophic.
The year 1914 began without any particular sense of foreboding. Russia’s attention was fixed on sports rather than politics. Berlin was hosting the world skating championship and Vasily Ippolitov was among the medalists.
There was also a men’s figure skating event in the Finnish capital, then known as Helsingfors; and a women’s skating competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Russian soccer team played friendly matches against Norway and Sweden.
The political situation in Russia seemed calm on the surface. The economy was growing at an unprecedented rate of between 10-20 percent. According to British journalist Maurice Baring, who was reporting on the situation at the time, Russia was going through an unprecedented period of prosperity, and there had never been a time when the vast majority of Russia’s citizens had fewer reasons to complain.
There was, however, a strict class system in the Russian Empire that severely restricted social mobility. The workers had no hope of breaking out of the ranks of the proletariat; farmers craved ownership of the land they had worked for centuries, but belonged to a few wealthy landlords. Ordinary people seemed ready to riot at the slightest provocation.
According to the diary of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, the year 1914 began much like any other. Nicholas wrote that on many occasions he had “joyful opportunities" to see Grigory Rasputin. On the day of German Kaiser Wilhelm's birthday the emperor had a breakfast with the German ambassador.
Nicholas II met the New Year in the town of Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg before heading for the Crimea. “We have inspected large herds of livestock, cows and horses,” the emperor wrote. “We also saw aurochs and bison, as well as zebras.
I had my head spinning from so many impressions and such an astonishing variety of animals.” After the trip to the Crimea, the Russian royal family visited Romania before returning to their palace at Peterhof and sailing to Finland aboard the royal yacht.
According to his diary, the emperor worked a lot, and took great pleasure from his leisure time. "We assembled puzzles from wooden bits, and then played dominoes and dice," he wrote. He and Crown Prince Alexei built a snow tower on their frozen pond at Tsarskoe Selo.
When winter turned to spring, they bathed an elephant in that same pond. Other warm-weather entertainments included canoeing, swimming, and playing tennis. The emperor diligently recorded the results of his royal hunts: “Pheasants - 33; partridges – 22; rabbits – 56 in total”. After sunset the royal family would often watch “funny and interesting cinematography.”
Cockfighting was all the rage among the St. Petersburg merchant class at the time. “The cocks square off, then throw themselves against each other, furiously pecking and striking with their legs and wings, until one of them falls to the ground, all bloodied, or saves itself by means of shameful retreat. The owner of the winning cockerel can make 10-15 rubles a day,” the emperor wrote.
In the 200 years since Peter the Great ascended to the Russian throne, the country had become one of Europe’s cultural powerhouses. During the reign of Alexander II, the West recognized Russian music and literature.
The great actor Konstantin Stanislavsky was the envy of every theater in the Western world. Serge Diaghilev gave the world the Ballets Russes. In 1914, Russia’s artistic achievements appeared to reach their zenith. The country’s artists and poets were famous all over the world.
Although the country even had its own equivalent of Pussy Riot. Many public readings of poetry would end in scandal.
“What if I, an uncultured barbarian, refuse to play entertaining antics before you tonight? What if I break into laughter and spit right in your face? I am a wastrel of precious words,” wrote the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The past in retrospect
After 1917, many began to look for – and to find – the harbingers of the later catastrophe during the seemingly peaceful first half of 1914. To many, it seemed obvious that the calm and orderly streets of St. Petersburg in July 1914 were like a thin crust on top of a boiling lava flow that would eventually break free.
Peter Durnov, the tsar’s perceptive former interior minister, gave this warning to Nicholas II: “The peasant dreams of getting ownership of somebody else’s land for free. The worker wants to grab the factory owner's entire capital and profits. They have no dreams beyond these purposes. If we allow these slogans to gain popularity among the masses, if the government allows the hotheads to agitate with impunity, Russia will be plunged into anarchy.”
On July 7, 10,000 workers in St Petersburg went on strike. By July 10 that number reached 135,000. Workers in Baku soon joined the protest. The main demand of the protesters was the abolition of the monarchy; the strike soon degenerated into violent rioting.
Protestors (described by Vladimir Lenin as “young workers”) stopped all trams in St. Petersburg. One tram driver was stoned to death. Some 200 of the city's 600 tram cars were damaged. Most people commuted via tram, and without the tram lines, there was no transport cheap enough for workers to use. The city’s plants and factories shut down.
The police were unable to control the situation. Fights often broke out between police officers and rioters. The strike ended only when World War I began.
Some historians believe that had the Duma members supported the strike, the political transformations in Russia would not have been as bloody and catastrophic as they turned out to be in 1917. Some also argue that Russia would not even have entered World War I.
On July 25, Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “On Thursday afternoon, Austria put an ultimatum to Serbia; it made several demands, including eight that are unacceptable to any independent state. The deadline for Serbia to comply expired today at 18:00 hours. All the talk everywhere is about what happens next."
The emperor hesitated for a while, but then made a fateful decision. As a long-standing ally of Serbia, Russia put its own ultimatum to Austria. Berlin threw its weight behind Vienna. A week later Germany declared war on Russia; in 10 days’ time the conflict had spiraled into a world war.
Former Imperial Furniture Factory in St. Petersburg Demolished Topic: Alexander Palace
The former factory of F. Meltzer & Co., situated on the corner of Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt and Karpovka Embankment has been demolished
Another piece of St. Petersburg’s Imperial past is no more. The building which housed the famed Meltzer furniture factory up until 1918 was demolished on February 6th.
One of the biggest names in the history of Russian furniture - F. Meltzer & Co, was founded in the 1860s by Johann Friedrich Meltzer. Once established, the firm was quickly appointed a supplier to the Russian Imperial Court, producing furniture for numerous Imperial residences, including the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Farm Palace at Peterhof, as well as exclusive pieces for the palaces and mansions of Russia’s aristocracy.
In 1880, the original factory was situated on Bolshoi Konushennoi ulitsa 17, and later moved to larger premises on the corner of Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt and Karpovka Embankment. The new factory was built by the architect Vasily Schaub (1861-1934), it was his first project in St. Petersburg. At the turn of the century the Meltzer’s employed 400 people.
The Meltzer factory closed in 1918. During the First World War the factory manufactured propellers, devices, telephone and telegraph communication. During the Soviet years, the factory produced furniture for hospitals, banks and offices.
The destruction of the historic building has outraged preservation groups in the city who claim that the demolition was illegal. Lawyers representing the groups have filed complaints with local and regional government administrations. Developers plan to construct luxury residences on the vacant land. It is interesting to note that according to the Fontanka.ru, one of the developers, Studio 44, who plan to invest 3 billion rubles in new projects on the site, are also the same firm currently carrying out the restoration of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.
Today, original pieces of Meltzer’s work can be seen on display in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
For more information on F. Meltzer & Co., please refer to the following article;
Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich to be Reburied in St. Petersburg? Topic: Nicholas Nicholayevich, GD
Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich and his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna
According to the Russian language blog Romanov Family Today, a request has been made by Princes Nicholas and Dimitri Romanovich to the Chairman of the National Organizing Committee for the Activities Associated with the 100th Anniversary of World War I, Sergei Naryshkin, seeking permission for reburial of the remains of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1856-1929) and his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna, nee Princess of Montenegro (1868-1935) at St. Petersburg.
On the eve of the outbreak of World War I, the grand duke's first cousin once removed, the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, yielded to the entreaties of his ministers and appointed Grand Duke Nicholas to the supreme command. He was 57 years old and had never commanded armies in the field before. He was given responsibility for the largest army ever put into the field in all prior history. After the strategic retreat of the Russian army, the Tsar replaced the Grand Duke as commander of the Russian armed forces on August 21, 1915.
The grand ducal couple escaped just ahead of the Red Army in April 1919, aboard the British Battleship HMS Marlborough. Grand Duke Nicholas died on January 5, 1929 of natural causes at Antibes in the south of France. He was buried with full military honours in the crypt of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cannes, France. Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna died six years later and was buried alongside her husband.
The remains of the grand ducal couple would be reinterred alongside those of other members of the Russian Imperial family in the Peter and Paul Cathedral at St. Petersburg.
UPDATE: An article also appeared in the February 23rd edition of the Montenegrin newspaper, Vijesti on the same topic.
The following article was originally published in the February 17th, 2014 edition of The Yorkshire Post. The author is not noted, however, The Yorkshire Post own the copyright presented below.
Within a few short years their carefree lives would be distant memories, swallowed up in the violence of the Russian Revolution.
The murder of the Russian Imperial family helped shape early 20th century history, but the story of a Yorkshireman who tutored the young offspring of Tsar Nicholas II’s sister, and captured a unique record of a lost world in photos, is barely known.
Until staff at Burnby Hall in Pocklington started doing some research last year, little was known about Herbert Stewart, the younger brother of the East Yorkshire property’s owner Percy Stewart.
Their collection included a wallet containing Russian roubles, a diary providing brief details of the early days of the Russian Revolution and a calling card announcing “Herbert Stewart, English Tutor to His Imperial Highness, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich”.
But research revealed the existence of a collection of photographs taken by Mr Stewart, still in their original Harrods box, at the National Media Museum in Bradford. In all there were 22 albums containing hundreds of beautifully-shot photographs of the young charges of Mr Stewart, who spent a decade in Russia until the cataclysmic events of 1917 and 1918.
Photo: Grand Duke Alexander Mikhhailovich (seated centre), with his wife, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (standing left), with their seven children, and Xenia's youngers sister, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (standing right).
Mr Stewart captured the boys dressed in naval uniforms, horse-riding, fishing and swimming, and in winter sledging on their families’ vast estates. On a trip to England with their mother Grand Duchess Xenia, Mr Stewart recorded the children in white shorts, tops and sunhats paddling on the beach at Bognor Regis.
In Russia they were sometimes joined by Tsar Nicholas II, his daughters and their only son, the Tsarevich Alexei, heir apparent to the throne of the Russian Empire, who were to be murdered by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.
“We came across the existence of Herbert Stewart’s photo albums quite by chance,” said assistant estate manager Peter Rogers. Towards the end of 2013, his diary was loaned to the Treasure House at Beverley and it was background research which revealed the existence of these albums.
At the time it was fashionable for the highest-ranking Russian families to employ English nannies and tutors. The Tsar himself employed a Yorkshireman called Sidney Gibbes. Mr Stewart met the Grand Duke in Biarritz when he was a young man and made a good impression.
“The Grand Duke told him that when he had sons he would invite him to be their tutor,” said Mr Rogers, who has published a new booklet called Mr Stewart and the Romanovs. He was as good as his word and Mr Stewart went to work for him in July 1908.
“Living as part of their household, Stewart was in a unique position to photograph one of the highest-ranking aristocratic families in pre-revolutionary Russia,” Mr Rogers added. “It’s hard not to look at them and reflect that in a few short years it would all be gone.”
Mr Stewart’s glittering life in Russia came to an end when the Revolution took hold. He recorded in his diary on March 16, 1917, that there was “heavy depression” at 106, Moika, the family’s palatial home in Petrograd. The family left for the Crimea the following month and Stewart left Russia at the end of the year. In a letter he wrote to one of the boys, Dmitri, hoping that there would be no more “unpleasantness” and that the Allies would “go into Russia, quell the Bolsheviks and help the Russians form a stable Government”.
But it was not to be. The Russian Imperial Romanov family, including their four daughters and their son and all those who chose to accompany them into exile were shot in Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918.
Grand Duchess Xenia, along with the Grand Duke and the children, escaped and settled as exiles in England, France and the US. Dmitri later became a Royal Naval officer and Stewart lived the remainder of his life in the Basse-Pyrenees. He died in 1960, the same year as Grand Duchess Xenia.
London and Paris to Host "Orthodox Rus. The Romanovs" Exhibition? Topic: Exhibitions
The exhibition, "Orthodox Rus. The Romanovs. My history", which was a great success in Moscow, may take place in a number of European cities, reports Interfax-Religion.
London and Paris have already made their applications, reported Archimandrite Tihon (Shevkunov), Abbot of the Sretensky Monastery, secretary of the Patriarchal Cultural Council, and one of curators of the exposition, on Wednesday in St. Petersburg to journalists. Fr. Tikhon has not yet made any specific plans to take the exhibition abroad.
On February 16 the exhibition will opened in the "Lenexpo" exhibition complex in St. Petersburg and will be held there till March 2. After the northern capital, the exhibition will be displayed in Vladivostok, Kazan, Volgograd, Samara, Sochi, and other Russian cities.
"We did not expect such a success in Moscow. The exhibition was prolonged three times, people queued for four hours, and 80 percent of them were young people. This indicates that our history is indeed in high demand. People want to know who they are and what are their roots," noted Fr. Tikhon.
Deputy governor of the St. Petersburg Vasily Kichedzhi related that among the new arrivals of the exhibition, prepared especially for St. Petersburg, there will be a performance called, "The Bronze Horseman" on the theme by one of Alexander Pushkin's poems. The area of display rooms will be 4,000 square meters, and 350 multimedia devices are involved in the work.
"The city government took the most active part in organization of the exhibition. No budgetary funds have been spent, and that is a good trend. St. Petersburg companies have given considerable financial support," noted V. Kichedzhi.
The exhibition, arranged with participation of the Russian Church, was first displayed in Moscow on November 4-24. Over 300,000 people attended this exhibition.
"This is the highest attendance of exhibitions held at the "Manezh" Central Exhibition Hall in recent years and it is unique for historical exhibitions," reported earlier the press service of the Synodal Information Department.
The preparation work was carried out for over half a year and about 1000 people were involved in it: historians, designers, a creative team, experts on computer graphics, sound, light, video, film-makers, and film-cutters. The exhibition occupied 4,000 square meters of the main exhibition hall in Moscow.
Over 40 excursions were held for school and university students every day. Requests to arranging excursions were received by the organizing committee until the closing of the exhibition; however, excursions were held throughout the first days of the exposition's work.
The exhibition was centered around the discussion of Russian history during the rule of the Romanovs, which lasted for 300 years. The narration was mostly carried out by means of over 350 multimedia carriers, including touch screen monitors, 50 plasmas monitors, light boxes, iPads with interactive quiz games and informative applications, and brief, captivating films.
The following article was originally published in the February 14th, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal. The author Mary M. Lane owns the copyright presented below. Several corrections have been made to the original text - PG
Of the 255,000 objects that the house of Peter Carl Fabergé created during the jeweler's lifetime, only 50 were his famed Easter eggs made of materials like platinum and diamonds for the Russian royal family.
An exhibition at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum called The World of Fabergé, which opens on Tuesday and runs through May 18, will show four of the eggs, including the Tsesarevich Constellation Egg, an unfinished, (relatively) modest blue crystal and rhinestone egg on which Fabergé was working in 1917, immediately before the Russian Revolution.
The show's 160 objects, from the Kremlin's Moscow collection, will give visitors tsar's-eye views of the enameled cobalt blue cigarette cases, golden letter openers and almandine encrusted crucifixes enjoyed by the Russian monarchy before its members were lined up and shot by Bolshevik rebels in 1918.
"We wanted to emphasize that Fabergé's work was an attempt to maintain an outmoded form of luxury," says curator Paulus Rainer. Because the show is the largest loan of Fabergé by the Kremlin to a European museum and was granted to celebrate the 525th anniversary of diplomacy between Austria and Russia, the show won't travel.
One item in the exhibit that the St. Petersburg-born jeweler transformed is a leather notebook. He covered it in gold and translucent white and blue enamel and decorated it with pearls and platinum. Adding a practical touch, he included storage holes for pens.
Fabergé, a jeweler's son born in 1846, often designed Art Nouveau jewelry for the royal family, but most of the pieces had their largest jewels removed and sold throughout Europe to help fund the revolution. One notable exception is a set of nine earrings, bracelets and necklaces in the show. They are made of diamonds, pearls and platinum, and were found in a box meant for holding praline chocolates in a Moscow house undergoing renovations in 1991.
Because Fabergé custom-made his items for the royal family, there was ample room for inside jokes: A 1.6-inch-by-0.8-inch citrine-and-gold figurine of a French bulldog with sapphire eyes is a reference to Tsar Nicholas's nickname of "the little bulldog," says Mr. Rainer.
Yet the Easter eggs represent the zenith of customized service, because Fabergé received only one rule from his royal clients: The eggs had to be distinctly different every year and contain a surprise.
Fabergé himself refused to indulge entreaties from royal family members, even the Tsarina Alexandra, to divulge each year's theme.
After becoming the official royal jeweler in 1885, Fabergé began making his eggs more extravagant, often using the year's top demonstration of Russian political power as a theme, says Mr. Rainer. For example, in 1900 Russia completed the trans-Siberian Express, then the world's longest rail system. As an Easter present, Tsar Nicholas gave his wife a 10-inch-tall egg, engraved on its top with the complete trans-Siberian route. Inside she found a 16-inch gold train, built to scale, complete with windows, a dining car, smoking car and first-class carriage. The locomotive had rubies for headlights. The item is on display in Vienna.
Fabergé outlived the Russian Revolution, but not by much: He died in 1920, in Switzerland.
At auction, modern collectors still yearn for eggs, "the trophy pieces," according to Helen Culver Smith, a Russian art specialist for Christie's based in London. In 2007, the auction house set the record of $18.6 million for a Fabergé egg.
Due to the rarity of the eggs, Christie's, which controls 71% of the Fabergé auction market (based on its auction prices and those at Sotheby's), scours Europe for unexpected Fabergé items with royal connections, says Ms. Smith. The house set the record for imperial snuff boxes in 2010 when a Fabergé snuff box, similar to the enameled cigarette cases on display in Vienna, fetched $1.5 million.
"There are still pieces out there," she says. "The [Russian] royal family was exceedingly generous: they even gave Fabergè works to their obstetricians."
For more information on the Tsesarevich Constellation Imperial Egg, please refer to the following article;
Livadia Palace Opens Imperial Lift and Solarium to Visitors Topic: Livadia
Entrance to the 100-year-old Imperial lift at Livadia Palace
For the first time since before the 1917 Revolution, visitors to Livadia Palace can now visit the rooftop (solarium) of the palace in the recently restored 100-year-old lift. It was here that Tsar Nicholas II and his family would come to relax and take in spectacular views of Yalta and the Black Sea.
The lift was produced by Carl Flor in Germany and installed in 1911 and was one of the first lifts on the southern coast of Crimea. It was installed by the palace architect Nikolai Krasnov, in order to facilitate the movement of the Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from haemophilia, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, who suffered from sciatica. The lift allowed them both to reach the upper floors of the palace, including the solarium.
The Empress particularly enjoyed this part of the palace where she loved to spend time with her family. The roof offered her a sanctuary, where she could rest, while enjoying the warm, sunny days that the Crimea offered. The solarium was decorated with her favourite plants and flowers.
After the revolution, the elevator was seldom used and fell into disrepair. Perhaps its lack of use during the Soviet years is what actually saved the Imperial lift? When workers set to work on restoring the lift in 2010, they noted its mechanism was still fully functional, and surprisingly, inside the cabin, too, was well preserved in its original form.
The lift was restored and opened to the public in April 2013. Inside is a small, but cozy cabin, paneled with mahogany, and a small stool, with room enough for only three people. The glass doors close silently and slowly and the two-storey climb to the solarium is absolutely quiet, no rattle and roar.
During my visit to Livadia Palace in 2000, I was invited to visit the solarium, however, it was only reachable at the time by stairs. It was a rare treat to say the very least, and I have many photographs of the roof top of the palace and the magnificent panoramic views this sanctuary offers. I can truly appreciate why the Empress loved this spot so much.