Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the June 21st, 2015 edition of NewsOK. The author Michaela Marx Wheatley owns the copyright of the work presented below.
Between 1885 and 1916, Peter Karl Fabergé created fifty lavish eggs as Easter presents for Russia's last two emperors. These supreme examples of jewelers’ art have become symbols of the rise and fall of the Romanov Empire. Oklahomans now have a chance to take a close look at these rare works.
Four Imperial Eggs and nearly 230 other treasures crafted by the House of Fabergé are on view in the special exhibition “Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through Sept. 27.
“Visitors will experience the wonder of these unique objects, but also have a chance to discover the stories of the people who made them possible, from the Romanov family to Karl Fabergé to the craftsmen themselves,” said Tracy Truels, OKCMOA education curator.
Audio guides designed for children and adults and a hands-on Design Studio, where visitors can create their own Imperial eggs, are available daily. A Gallery Talk Series is scheduled at 1 p.m. on select Sundays throughout the exhibition. Museum staff will discuss a Fabergé topic while touring through the gallery. Each experience is free with paid admission to the Museum.
Introduced to the works of Fabergé at an exhibition in Moscow, Tsar Alexander III appointed Fabergé jeweler and goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court. Fabergé went on to create hundreds of exquisite objects, including the legendary series of eggs.
“Hundreds of unique objects, including the famed Imperial Easter Eggs, were commissioned by the Romanovs until the Russian Revolution in 1917. The intertwining relationship between Fabergé and the last Russian dynasty has been a real point of fascination for people over the last century,” Fabergé curatorial assistant Catherine Shotick said.
Alexander III presented an egg each year to the Empress Maria. The gifting tradition was continued by his son, Nicholas II.
“Peter Karl Fabergé worked very closely with the Imperial family, producing work that would become treasured parts of the Romanovs lives,” added Michael Anderson, special exhibition curator. “Naturally, one sees this in the Easter eggs.”
Each egg on display at OKCMOA tells a story; each one meant something to the Romanovs.
The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg celebrated Nicholas’ son Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. The boy nearly perished that year. He had been so close to death the court had already written his death notice. Alexei survived, and Fabergé designed a special tribute. It is said that it was Empress Alexandra's most cherished egg.
The Pelican Egg, the first Oklahoma audiences see when entering the exhibition, dazzles in its detail. It’s made of engraved gold, topped by a delicate pelican feeding her young. This egg commemorated the Dowager Empress’ patronage of various charitable institutions, which are depicted on a folding screen in eight ivory miniatures.
The Red Cross Egg signaled that the Romanov's protective shell of imperial privilege had been dangerously cracked by the onset of World War I. Alexandra enrolled herself and her older daughters in nurses' training and converted the Winter Palace into a provisional hospital to care for the wounded. The egg reveals portraits the Romanov women dressed in the Sisters of Mercy uniform.
Also on display is an egg celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg, from which a miniature statue of Peter the Great emerges.
However, the show offers much more than eggs from elegant jewelry to exquisite dishes and ornate frames.
Born in 1846, Fabergé was educated in St. Petersburg and Dresden, where he fell under the influence of Renaissance and Baroque art. He trained with goldsmiths in France, Germany and England, eventually building a business catering to the tastes of Russia’s upper class.
“Fabergé’s workshops were managed by only the most accomplished master metal smiths and jewelers, and great care was taken in the selection of materials to assure the highest quality,” said Shotick.
OKCMOA President and CEO E. Michael Whittington said each staff member has been intrigued by a different piece. For him it’s a small star frame with the photograph of Grand Duchess Tatiana.
“For me, the beauty of this object lies in its simplicity and superb craftsmanship. Its tragic history, however it was included in the inventory of personal effects from the murdered Romanov family makes it endlessly fascinating,” Whittington said.
“For whatever it represented, this object matter dearly to the Romanov family,” Anderson added.
Bringing the exhibition to Oklahoma City is the culmination of years of work, Whittington said, acknowledging the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for their collaboration.
“It has truly been an exciting international collaboration.”
Whittington is excited people are taking note of Oklahoma as an art destination with institutions like the OKCMOA, the Gilcrease and Philbrook in Tulsa, and the Fred Jones Museum of Art in Norman.
“Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars builds on the already strong reputation of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in showcasing major exhibitions. Later this summer, we’ll be announcing an even more ambitious exhibition and partnership with one of the world’s leading art museums,” Whittington said.
Buy tickets online at www.okcmoa.com or at the Museum’s admission desk. Audio guides are available for adults and children to immerse visitors in the artwork and mystery of the Romanov dynasty.
© Michaela Marx Wheatley / NewsOK. 21 June, 2015