Entrance to the Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the February 13th, 2015 edition of The Telegraph. The author, John O'Ceallaigh, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
Some of Fabergé's most spectacular treasures await in an unassuming museum in Germany's Baden-Baden
Opened last year, St Petersburg’s Fabergé Museum may display the most comprehensive collection of treasures created by the Russian jeweller, but the increased difficulties Britons face in obtaining a Russian visa mean its wonders remain inaccessible to many. It’s worth knowing then that another Fabergé Museum, the only other of its kind in fact, has for some time been open for some time in southern Germany’s Baden-Baden.
Fabergé may be best remembered for the exquisite Imperial Eggs he crafted at the bequest of Russia’s last tsars, who from approximately 1885 to 1916 commissioned 50 of the bejewelled confections as presents for their wives and mothers, but his studio was expert in far more than that. While Baden-Baden is a small, sedate town most likely to draw tourists for its collection of spas, including the newly opened high-profile Villa Stephanie, this moderately sized museum houses a world-class collection. It displays more than 800 objects, and while its three priceless Eggs are unquestionably the headline draw, it’s the more unexpected items that fully illustrate his unparalleled skill as a master craftsman.
The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Fabergé cigarette cases, and as mundane as those objects might sound, they are, like the Eggs, intricately designed and riotously yet tastefully detailed creations, perhaps finished in gold or sheathed in diamonds. The market for smoking-related paraphernalia may have dwindled since Fabergé’s heyday, but many are precisely the right size to function as credit or business card holders – they’re immediately covetable.
Russian billionaire and art collector, Alexander Ivanov, founder of the Baden-Baden museum
Other displays are similarly dazzling. Racks of jewellery sparkle throughout; petite desk clocks remain remarkably modern in appearance so many decades after development; almost the entirety of the top floor is dedicated to Fabergé’s miniature animal figures, with fairy tale-like toads, elephants, armadillos and more rendered from jade and silver and decorated with precious stones. A level below, an entire room is taken over by a 200-piece dinner set, intricately carved from gold and used for the wedding service of the Maharaja of Patiala in 1922.
It is an incredible assembly, complemented by an ongoing exhibition of gold jewellery and crafts that date from about 3,000BC onwards. Whether it was explaining the provenance of ancient Mayan amulets or pointing out a Chinese funerary glove, woven into a mesh from minute strands of gold, the building’s security guard Herr Fleischmann proved an unexpectedly authoritative font of knowledge on all that area contained. He also mentioned he travels the world to give master classes in martial arts and is one of the most accomplished practitioners of Sin Moo Hapkido fighting there is – no doubt a good skill to have when you work in a small town protecting one of the most precious displays of jewellery and finery there is.
Alexander Ivanov on Faberge and the Russian Art Market Topic: Faberge
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the February 9th, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author, Aliya Sayakhova, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
Russian art collector Alexander Ivanov explains how the Russian Art Market may develop as the ruble and economy plunge.
The last big sales in London in November reflected the deepening crisis in Russia. Major auction houses failed to sell between 40 and 60pc of lots offered. Although a new record was set when Valentin Serov’s Portrait of Maria Zetlin sold for £9.2 million, well above its £1.5-2.5 million estimate, even that could not hide the lacklustre atmosphere.
Economic cycles seem to leave some Russian collectors untroubled, among them wealthy former computer businessman Alexander Ivanov, a regular presence at London’s biannual Russian Art Week. Ivanov spends a couple of million pounds per visit and buys just about anything: Old Masters, European jewellery, Pre-Columbian gold, Russian icons. However his true love is Fabergé. Ivanov is a founder of the Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden, the German spa town. Opened in 2009, it is home to Ivanov’s ever-growing collection of rabbits, decanters, gold flowers, clocks, and other notable pieces by the Russian Imperial goldsmith.
Ivanov’s most important purchase to date was in 2007 when he paid £9m at Christie’s for a 1902 Fabergé egg made as an engagement gift for Baron Edouard de Rothschild, a scion of the French banking dynasty. The gold-and-pink enamel egg and clock with a diamond-set cockerel that pops up on the hour was completely unknown until it resurfaced at auction a few years ago. A highlight of Ivanov’s collection until recently, the fabulous ornament is now on show in the Throne Room of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, having been formally presented December 8 by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the Hermitage’s 250th birthday.
Ivanov bought the egg at Christie’s in 2007, though no public announcement of his donation has been made. As the collector told Moskovsky Komsomolets, it was always obvious that such a masterpiece as Rothschild’s egg must end up in Russia. He won't acknowledge his own role, remarking: “I don’t need PR."
Ivanov talked with RBTH during a recent shopping spree in London.
Russia Beyond the Headlines: When it comes to Fabergé, you buy across all categories, regardless of price and medium. Do you intend to create a comprehensive collection?
Alexander Ivanov: As you know, I buy for my museum. Apart from that, I buy a lot at European decorative arts sales. One can always find outstanding objects, from Germany in particular. That type of art I collect for my own pleasure. Recently I bought a diadem because it belonged to the Russian empress – something that no one realised. We paid only £60,000 for it, which is very cheap. You can just look at the photographs of the empress where she is wearing this exact diadem.
RBTH: Last year there was a sensation when Wartski announced the discovery of a third Fabergé egg, believed to have been given by Alexander III to Marie Feodorovna for Easter 1887. Have you seen this egg?
A.I.: I don’t acknowledge this egg as genuine. There are scholarly catalogues where all the imperial eggs are described in detail, including the one in question. In my museum we have drawings of Imperial egg designs, which we have not yet put on display or published, and which obviously shed light on the Wartski egg story.
RBTH: What significant pieces have your recently acquired for your museum?
A.I.: We bought over 500 objects recently, including some outstanding pieces of Inca gold from America, plus Scythian, Sarmatian and, most significantly, Etruscan gold dated 12-10 BC. We also have collection of 500 Fabergé animals.
RBTH: How much a year do you spend?
A.I.: Around £20-30 million.
RBTH: Do you buy from across the world then, rather then just in London?
A.I.: Absolutely. The best pieces are always found at regional auctions in continental Europe and in France.
RBTH: Do you go to museums and galleries when visiting London?
A.I.: I always go to the National Gallery and its gallery where Carlo Crivelli is displayed as well the one that has Da Vinci. It’s a pity Crivelli doesn’t appear on the market very often. As for Da Vinci, they do occasionally - I just arranged to acquire a couple. But proving that it is an actual Da Vinci is incredibly difficult.
RBTH: How do you think Russian Art Market is going to evolve? Is Putin really "watching closely who is throwing money around in London," as one British journalist told me?
A.I.: Putin has too many other problems to deal with. It’s a well-known fact that Russian bureaucrats spend colossal amounts of money at London auctions. But these people have no taste or education; they buy “primitive” art like Breughel, or some Russian art, lubok for example (Russian popular prints) which they bid sky high. Even the Serov is hardly a masterpiece. Everyone understands that, apart from a Russian bureaucrat who knows and understands nothing. The reason why there are fewer of these buyers now is because the FSB [Federal Security Service, a successor body to the Soviet-era KGB] is investigating a couple of smuggling cases involving antique dealers and high-level Russian officials. It is a new trend, and I am sure there will be more checks, hence all the dealers are getting a bit nervous.
Faberge's Lost Treasures, Still Waiting To Be Found Topic: Faberge
Some of Russia’s most incredible riches, from the magnificent amber panels of the Catherine Palace to the jewels of the Russian Imperial family, are still out there somewhere, lost, and waiting to be found. It is, however, the missing Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs which continue to allude Fabergé aficionados around the world.
When the Bolsheviks nationalized the tsar’s properties in 1918, eight priceless Fabergé eggs — made with precious stones, expensive metals and precise engineering went missing. It is known 50 Fabergé Imperial Eggs were created and delivered in total. Until last year, the whereabouts of only 42 were known. It is the mystery surrounding these missing Imperial Eggs which adds to the romance of the Fabergé story. While they have never been found, it is possible several of them made it to Britain and the United States, their provenance and historic value possibly unknown to their current owners.
In 2014, one of the missing eight Eggs was discovered: the Third Imperial Easter Egg (created in 1887). It had been seized by the Bolsheviks and mysteriously made its way to the United States. By chance, an unidentified man bought it at a market in the U.S. Midwest for $14,000, intending to sell it for scrap. The Egg was sold for an undisclosed amount, and was later displayed at Court Jewellers Wartski over four days in April 2014 in London, England. This now leaves seven Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs missing or lost.
The Third Imperial Easter Egg was featured in the article, Empress Marie Feodorovna's Missing Fabergé Easter Eggs, co-written by Annemiek Wintraecken and Christel Ludewig McCanless (co-editors of the Fabergé Research Newsletter). The article was published in the Royal Russia Annual No. 3 in 2013 and consists of 8 pages and 10 black and white photographs.
An interesting article recently appeared in the Fabergé Research Newsletter (Winter 2014) about the 1896 Alexander III Portraits Egg. Today the egg is part of a large Fabergé collection at the Hillwood Museum in Washington (DC). The surprise in the Fabergé egg has been missing. As it turned out, the research team, Anna and Vincent Palmade, discovered four photographs of the surprise - a folding miniature frame, and published them on the Faberge Research Site. The whereabouts of both the frame and the six portraits is currently unknown, however, the newsletter notes that they “hope the surprise may be alive and well in the care of an unsuspecting collector.”
Royal Russia News is read by thousands of Romanov enthusiasts and lovers of Imperial Russian history daily. It is my sincere hope and wish that one of these readers may know the whereabouts of the missing frame and portraits of the Alexander III Portraits Egg, or any of the seven missing Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs and their surprises. If you have any information on the whereabouts of any of these missing treasures, please contact me.
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Rooms Dedicated to Carl Faberge Open in State Hermitage Museum Topic: Faberge
On 7 December 2014, the Day of St. Catherine, when the State Hermitage Museum celebrated its 250th anniversary, a gala ceremony for the opening of permanent exhibitions at General Staff Building was held.
The restored halls in the East Wing of the building hold a new museum complex featuring 19th century paintings, Impressionism and Postmodernism art works from famous collections of S.I. Shchukin and I.A. Morozov, as well as collections of Russian and European decorative and applied arts. The exhibition space also includes the restored historical interiors – gala halls of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, private apartments that belonged to Chancellor K.V. Nesselrode, rooms of the Ministry of Finance and the Museum of Guards.
It is, however, the new halls devoted to Carl Fabergé which make up one of the most fascinating parts of the new museum complex. They demonstrate the heritage of the firm, founded by renowned Carl Fabergé, as well as further developments and achievements of contemporary jewellery and stone-cutting art.
“The Rooms Dedicated to Carl Fabergé” include 3 rooms: the first room is dedicated to the main Fabergé masterpiece in the State Hermitage Museum collection directly related to the Imperial Court which is a copy of the Imperial regalia and other artefacts related to the coronation events; the second hall is meant for temporary exhibitions of jewellery and stone-cutting works made by contemporary Russian and foreign artists, the exhibition “Plastics in Metal and Stone. Works of Contemporary Masters” currently takes place there; the third hall is dedicated to the works created by the Fabergé Company.
50-Year Faberge Collection Headline Upcoming Auction in Florida Topic: Faberge
Faberge gold, diamond and guilloche enamel tie pin overlaid with Imperial Eagle with diamond, 1908-1917, Workmaster: Henrik Wigstrom.
Photo Credit: Estate of Robert Gottfried (2014)
In South Florida, all eyes are on a January 12 auction featuring antiques and art from the Estate of Robert W. Gottfried. Gottfried was a prominent Palm Beach real estate developer and homebuilder who co-founded Martha A. Gottfried Inc., the premier luxury real estate firm on the island. The famed Gottfried mansion on Hi Mount Road in Palm Beach was magnificently appointed with antiques in the French and Italian taste, many of large scale.
Featured in the 350-lot auction, to be conducted by Auction Gallery of the Palm Beaches (AGOPB), is a collection of exquisite Faberge items from a Russian-born woman who lives in Delray Beach, Florida. Some of the Faberge has been held privately for 50 years and is entirely new to the marketplace.
The Russian collection was brought to the United States in the 1960s. The Faberge grouping includes two pieces by workmaster Henrik Wigstrom (1908-1917): a gold and guilloche enamel lozenge brooch estimated at $15,000-$20,000; and a unique tie pin commemorating 300 years of Russian Imperialism. The pin bears the double-eagle crest and the dates 1619-1919, and is estimated at $10,000-$15,000. An 1895 Faberge silver and enamel icon of the Mother and Child, St. Petersburg, by workmaster Anders Michelsson, carries an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
A pair of gold, diamond and guilloche blue enamel cufflinks, 1908-1917, was crafted by workmaster Anton Kuzmichev. "While not a Faberge design, the quality and execution are truly exceptional. These cufflinks are going to capture the attention of jewelry connoisseurs," Kogan predicted.
The Faberge Saga: The Fall of Two Empires Topic: Faberge
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the December 27th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Flora Moussa, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
This year the House of Fabergé, the jewelry firm primarily known for its spectacular Easter eggs, commemorated the 200th birthday of its founder, Gustav Fabergé. RBTH presents the story of the famous family, which mirrors the fate of the Russian Empire itself.
In 1883, Russian Emperor Alexander III placed an order for two cicada-shaped cufflinks with a certain Carl Fabergé – a young jeweler who had caught his eye during the Russian Industrial Exposition held in Moscow a year before.
Thus began the first chapter in the long story of friendship between the House of Romanov and the man whose very name would eventually become synonymous with the grandeur and the exuberance of the Russian Empire. That same story would be abruptly interrupted some 30 years later by the Russian Revolution.
At the beginning, though, the Russian Empire was experiencing a period of peace and stability, an era of vast industrialization and splendor, marked by great artistic achievements. To satisfy the refined tastes of their clients, Russian jewelers were returning to their roots, moving away from the European standards to try and give a touch of authenticity to their works. Precious metals and gemstones were at the time a part of the everyday life for Russian monarchs and nobility. And for the House of Fabergé, this was a moment of glory.
Founded in 1842 by Gustav Fabergé, a descendant of French Protestants who fled to Russia from the Picardy region of northeast France sometime in the 17th century, the jewelry company achieved great success, partly due to its location in the center of St. Petersburg and the passion for all things French that was deeply rooted in Russian society at that time. But Fabergé's fame was mostly due to the superior quality the firm offered. That said, the sketches made by the founder himself show that, while a capable jeweler, the elder Fabergé was not especially inventive by the standards of his time.
In 1872, Gustav's son Peter Carl Fabergé took over as the head of the family business. Despite his young age – he was barely 26 – Carl was already an experienced jeweler who had studied in Europe, visiting Germany, France and Italy and picking up skills and traditions from the best of the best, according to Caroline Charron, author of Fabergé: From the Court of the Czar to Exile. During his stay in Europe, Carl learned to work with decorative glass, opal, amethyst and other materials that were not widely used by jewelers at the time.
But the young Fabergé did not stop there: Willing to acquire the skills of the artisans of yore, he offered his services to St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, repairing and restoring jewelry from its collections free of charge, which eventually allowed him to master old techniques.
Supplier to the Imperial Court
After becoming a supplier to the Imperial Court of Russia in 1884, the House of Fabergé became a genuine heavyweight in the field, rivaling the St. Petersburg-based House of Bolin, one of the oldest jewelry houses in the world. Fabergé's secret was in fact quite simple: Carl paid particular attention to the quality of the materials and the designs, which had to be absolutely perfect before leaving his workshops. His other strong point was his ingenuity: As Charron explains, Fabergé managed to fuse European art and culture with Russian traditions.
Unlike some other jewelers, Carl Fabergé didn't exclusively use pure gold, choosing sometimes to employ alloys such as white or grey gold. As for gemstones, Fabergé always valued their aesthetic qualities over their actual price. Moreover, thanks to the enameling technique invented by his company, his items had a unique look, and the use of semi-precious stones – an innovative approach in those days – helped ensure competitive pricing for his products in comparison to those produced by Bolin.
In 1885, at the order of Emperor Alexander III, Carl Fabergé created for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, the first of his Easter eggs. Although in appearance a simple enameled white egg, it hid inside a golden yolk, and within the yolk was a golden hen which contained in turn a miniature diamond crown and another tiny egg in ruby. The Empress liked the gift so much that Alexander III commissioned Fabergé to produce one Easter egg every year.
The tradition survived the tsar himself and was passed on to his successor and son, Nicholas II. Of the grand total of 71 Easter eggs created by the firm, 52 were made for the royal family.
Additionally, the House of Fabergé received big orders from the Imperial family on the eve of holidays and important events, such as the formal coronation of Nicholas II, which took place in 1894, and the official jubilee celebrating the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule in 1913.
The dawn of a turbulent century
In gratitude for Fabergé's efforts, the Imperial family helped organize an exhibition of the works of the jeweler in March 1902.
The exhibits included Fabergé jewelry provided by the Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as several members of the Russian nobility. The event lasted for two days and is still considered a moment of great glory for the company.
Besides the famous eggs, the House of Fabergé produced all kinds of jewelry, statuettes and dishes made of precious metals, each a true masterpiece.
Fabergé's products were highly valued not just inside the empire, but also abroad: They were often offered as gifts to European monarchs. The House soon opened stores in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London, also becoming a supplier to the King of Siam and the British royal family.
For Carl Fabergé, despite the vast sums commanded by his gemstone-studded pieces, it was nonetheless the creative process that he valued highest. "If you compare my business with such firms as Tiffany, Boucheron or Cartier, they probably have more jewels than me," he once said, distancing himself from his rivals. "There you can find a ready-made necklace worth 1.5 million rubles (about $65 million in current prices). But they are traders, not artisan jewelers. I am not really interested in an expensive thing if its price is so high just because they stuck a lot of diamonds or pearls in there."
According to the memoirs of H.C. Bainbridge, who was Fabergé's representative in London from 1908 to 1917, King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria once even offered the jeweler the chance to become one of his ministers. "Your majesty, please," Fabergé replied, "The only post I could really take would be a Minister of Jewelry Affairs."
Admittedly, one of the reasons for the firm's success was the marketing and management savvy demonstrated by Carl Fabergé. According to Valentin Skurlov, author of a biography of Fabergé, the man had an ability to find the best artisans and salesmen. To make his products accessible to the clients living in remote regions of Russia, the jeweler started distributing catalogues of his wares. At the beginning of 1914, his jewelry empire comprised nearly 100,000 unique works.
Nevertheless, the company took a serious hit with the outbreak of the First World War. As the demand for luxury products plunged, Fabergé's successes were quickly negated by a series of defeats.
Like many Russian companies, the House of Fabergé tried to reorganize itself to meet the needs of the military – it started accepting orders made by the army and producing decorations for officers. But the glorious saga of the House was nevertheless brought to end by the abdication of Nicholas II and the fall of the Russian monarchy: The new Bolshevik authorities declared a war against the old regime, beginning by eliminating any and all traces of capitalism.
Most of Fabergé's clients were forced to flee the country, while others were arrested. The company was nationalized and its five branches closed. Carl himself left Russia in September 1918; by then, the Imperial family, his former benefactors, had already been executed.
Carl Fabergé passed away in Switzerland in 1920 – deprived of his life's work, he never managed to find a place in the new world.
Two years later, two of his four sons, Alexandre and Eugene Fabergé opened their own company in Paris, dubbing it Fabergé et Cie. However, they were unable to replicate the success of the jeweler of the Russian tsars.
The priceless works created by the House of Fabergé still fascinate luxury enthusiasts and collectors. In 2007, the Fabergé Rothschild egg was sold by Christie's for $18.5 million to the Russian businessman Alexander Ivanov, making it the most expensive example of Russian applied arts in history. In 2009, Ivanov opened a private Fabergé museum in the German city of Baden-Baden, displaying a wide collection of Fabergé items with the Rothschild egg as the centerpiece. In December 2014, Ivanov gave the masterpiece to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in turn presented it to the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg to commemorate the museum's 250th anniversary.
The Fabergé brand lives on. Alexander and Eugene sold the brand to businessman Sam Rabin, who founded the company Fabergé Inc, specializing in perfume production. From then onward, the firm was frequently resold, changing hands numerous times until 2012, when it was acquired by the multinational natural resources company Gemfields for the meager price of $142 million.
Carl Fabergé's grandson Theo followed in his grandfather's footsteps. After restoring Carl's old lathe in 1950, he began developing designs and crafting elegant items of ivory and rare wood. Soon, Theo started receiving orders from Fabergé collectors and famous museums. The year 1984 marked the rebirth of the Fabergé collection in the global market of precious metals, gemstones, enamel, porcelain and stone-carved items. Theo Fabergé passed away in 2008, but his daughter Sarah carries on the family tradition to this day.
Putin Gives Faberge Items to Hermitage for 250th Anniversary Topic: Faberge
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the Hermitage State Museum with a clock and a Faberge egg clock and expressed hope that the works of art will be displayed for visitors to admire.
“I would like to present a clock by Carl Faberge and an egg clock – a second work by Faberge – as a gift to the Hermitage,” the president said during a visit in honor of the Hermitage’s 250th anniversary.
The first item is a clock made for the 25th wedding anniversary of Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Fedorovna. The Faberge egg clock was a “Rothschild egg clock,” Putin said. “I hope they find a place in the Hermitage’s exhibitions,” he said.
Putin said that the priceless items on display at the museum are a point of pride not only for Russia, but for the whole world. They were preserved and protected during the most difficult periods of Russian history.
“It is hard to imagine that 250 years ago, the museum’s collection began with 225 paintings bought from abroad by Catherine the Great, and now it houses more than 3 million works,” Putin said.
The State Hermitage is an attraction for millions of people from both Russia and abroad.
“The Hermitage organizes dozens of various programs that can be considered benchmarks for modern museology. I will particularly note the museum’s outstanding website. It is a wonderful initiative that allows millions of people from around the world to experience masterpieces of global art without leaving their homes," Putin said.
Regional branches of the Hermitage will also become nationwide centers of attraction, according to statements made by the Russian president at a reception marking the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage.
“Mikhail Borisovich [the Hermitage’s director Mikhail Piotrovsky] and I were talking about creating small branches of the Hermitage in other Russian cities, such as Yekaterinburg, Omsk, and Vladivostok. The plans exist, one way or another, and all plans move forward,” Putin said.
The Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg marked its first anniversary this month. The city's newest and certainly one of its most beautiful showcases the history and work of the famous jewellery firm founded in 1842, and it's Imperial and Royal clients in Russia, Great Britain, Europe and other parts of the world. Russian photographer Igor Sychev shares his photographs of the Faberge Museum exhibits and the exquisite Shuvalov Palace interiors.
Click on the link below to read the article and view the beautiful colour photographs of Russian photographer Igor Sychev:
Las Vegas Presents 'Faberge Revealed' Topic: Faberge
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (BGFA), the premier cultural destination on the Las Vegas Strip recognized for presenting world-class exhibitions in an unrivalled setting, this week debuted “Fabergé Revealed.” Culture seekers and art lovers can view the exhibit through May 25, 2015.
Organized in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, “Fabergé Revealed” showcases 238 rare Fabergé artifacts. A part of the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, these treasures are synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship, impeccable taste and the rich history of the Russian imperial family from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unique to this exhibition is a small collection of “Fauxbergé” objects – Fabergé look-alikes once believed to be originals.
“Our guests will be fascinated by these treasured objects that not only encompass the beauty of art, but also tell one of the most powerful stories in history – the fall of the Russian imperial family,” said BGFA Executive Director Tarissa Tiberti. “‘Fabergé Revealed’ highlights each of the distinct styles displayed in the original House of Fabergé stores in St. Petersburg, Moscow and London centuries ago.”
Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the House of Fabergé produced more than 150,000 objects of art, jewels and silver articles – many of which were one of a kind with detailed design and artistry. “Fabergé Revealed” features signature pieces from Fabergé’s original collection, including the Imperial Pelican Easter Egg (1897), created to celebrate the Dowager Empress of Russia. The red-gold egg unfolds into eight oval frames graduated in size, each rimmed with pearls and inscribed with the names of the institutions that appear on the front. A pelican stands in a nest atop the egg and feeds her young, symbolizing maternal care.
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the October 17th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Elena Bobrova, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
Two hundred and eighteen lots containing pieces made by the official supplier of jewelry to the Russian imperial court will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in October. A series of autographed prize medals is expected to generate particular interest among bidders.
Items of jewelry, silverware and a collection of prize medals from the workshops of the House of Fabergé, the illustrious supplier of jewelry to the Russian imperial court, will appear in a Sotheby's auction in New York on Oct. 23.
“This sale includes 71 lots of items from Fabergé; the lots of miniature pendant Easter eggs (lots 68 and 69) include works from many different jewelers of the period. Fabergé is one of the most desirable names on the world market and we are always trying to find the very best examples to offer our clients,” said Karen Kettering, Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Russian Works of Art Department.
A serious bidding war is also anticipated for some of the enamelwork.
"Undoubtedly, we are all thrilled to offer the enamel, gold, silver and hardstone study of a violet (lot 36),” said Kettering. “The freshness and delicacy of the piece represents the very best of the Fabergé flower studies: the workmasters and artisans worked the most precious materials with the greatest of skill to create an object of refined simplicity”.
A gilded silver tray ladle with the enameled coat of arms of the Russian Empire is also expected to attract a high level of interest. ”The large and impressive Fabergé silver jardinière in Rococo taste (lot 101) is extraordinarily heavy and, at 48 cm in width, quite an imposing object. We had a similar centerpiece with the same coat-of-arms in a 2010 sale. We have not yet identified the family’s name, but it was obviously part of an important silver service for a very wealthy family,” said Kettering.
Collectors and investors are also only showing interest in precious autographed prize medals. In the days of the Russian Empire, these were given to specially merited directors of commercial railways, large auction houses and industrial associations. Their starting prices range from $5,000 to $25,000.
The auction's overall revenue, even if all the items are sold at starting prices, is expected to be over $1 million.
Kettering said that the current geopolitical tensions between Russia and the U.S. have not affected the demand for Russian art. “Sotheby’s auctions of Russian art in June 2014 achieved their highest total in six years, dispelling pre-sale doubts that had been raised about the market. Specifically, demand for Russian masterpieces has never been higher, with more lots selling for over £1 million at our Evening Auction than at any Russian sale before. These record sales demonstrate that there isn’t always a clear correlation between socio-political tension and the strength of the art market,” Kettering said.
Other American auction houses are also not backing off Russian art treasures. In December, New York will host the traditional international art and antique auctions with the participation of the largest auction houses and dealers from the U.S., the UK, Germany and France. Additionally, a collection of unique mechanic timepieces will be auctioned in December at the Antiquorum, a house that auctions pocket watches, hand watches and mantelpiece clocks made by the best watchmakers and jewelers from the mid-17th to 20th centuries. The collection to be auctioned is expected to contain a series of gift watches belonging to Russian Emperor Nicholas II. They were produced in a limited edition by the Pavel Bure Company, the official supplier of the imperial court.
The House of Fabergé (Dom Faberzhe in Russian) was founded by Gustav Faberge in St. Petersburg in 1842 and continued by his son Peter Carl Fabergé. The company became renowned for the high quality of its intricate pieces, in particular the ornate jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs it created for the Russian tsars. The firm was nationalized by the Bolsheviks when they came to power in 1918.