Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Plans Fabergé Tour
Karl Faberge's Imperial Pelican Easter Egg, 1897, part of the Pratt collection, features red gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls and miniature folding panels.
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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts plans to take its signature collection of Fabergé jewels on a two-year tour starting later this year while more than doubling the size of the museum gallery where the works are displayed.
The destinations and other details of the tour have not been made final, but the museum has committed to keeping sole custody of the jewels during the tour to satisfy the terms of the 65-year-old will that bequeathed to the museum the fabled collection of Lillian Thomas Pratt.
The collection includes five jeweled Easter eggs made by the master craftsman Peter Carl Fabergé for the Russian imperial family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is the largest collection of Fabergé eggs outside Russia itself.
Pratt's 1947 will states that the items cannot be sold or loaned, but the museum devised a court-approved arrangement in 1995 that allowed part of the collection to be shown concurrently with the "Fabergé in America" exhibition in 1996.
The key to the arrangement is maintaining possession of the jewels no matter where they are displayed.
"No matter where (the collection) is, it's under the same care and attention it is when it's in the museum physically," said Robin Nicholson, deputy director of art and education.
Museum officials said they expect the 150 items in the Fabergé collection to be displayed in four or five cities in North America and Europe, but they declined to name the potential destinations or discuss contract terms.
"While touring, the collection will generate return through exhibition fees," Nicholson said. "We are also actively using the exhibition as a tool to generate future collections-sharing with international museums."
The tour also will feature the catalogue the museum produced for its "Fabergé Revealed" exhibition last summer. The show's curator, Géza von Habsburg, wrote the 432-page catalogue, which the museum calls a landmark in scholarship on the work of Fabergé.
Museum officials said they have not determined the cost or full extent of renovations planned for the Fabergé Gallery, one of the smallest exhibition spaces in the museum at about 800 square feet.
The gallery will be closed on Aug. 1 for renovations expected to take about two years to complete. The museum plans to expand the gallery into surrounding space for support services, including what is now the West Wing kitchen.
"We could more than double the size of the Fabergé Gallery and really give the collection the space it deserves," Nicholson said.
The museum also hopes the impending tour will give the collection the national and international audience they think it deserves.
The last time a portion of the collection toured other museums was in conjunction with the "Fabergé in America" exhibition about 15 years ago.
The museum displayed 52 objects from the Pratt Collection in an exhibition with three other museums that featured about 400 items made by Fabergé.
However, the items that Pratt bequeathed to the museum were technically not part of the larger exhibition so as not to violate the will's prohibition of the jewels being loaned. Instead, the collection toured concurrently with the larger exhibition and remained under the sole control of the Virginia Museum and its security staff. "I think the word 'possession' is the one used most frequently," Nicholson said.
The arrangement was approved by Richmond Circuit Judge Randall G. Johnson, who heard arguments on the museum's behalf by then-Attorney General Jim Gilmore.
Nicholson said the museum has not asked the court for renewed permission to take the jewels on tour because its lawyers say the 1995 court decision "set a precedent that remains in place … as long as we abide by the rules laid down in that case."
Source & Copyright: Richmond Times-Dispatch