Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars

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Source: Houston Museum of Natural Science

Discover the spectacular designs of Carl Fabergé, a master goldsmith and legendary jeweler who is still celebrated for his inventive design and meticulous craftsmanship. Perhaps best known for the Imperial Easter Eggs created for the Russian Royal family, the House of Fabergé also fashioned jewelry and luxurious gifts for many ruling families of Europe as well as other wealthy patrons.

Marvel at exquisite objects produced by the Fabergé workshop at its peak, including personal gifts to the Tsar and Tsarina, an extravagant tiara, magnificent "fire-screen" picture frame, and the famed Nobel Ice Egg, a stunning piece that is one of the few Imperial-styled eggs in private hands. From elegantly simple to breathtakingly ornate, the jewelry, clocks, picture frames, boxes and eggs in this collection were thoughtfully selected to exemplify extraordinary materials and workmanship.

In recent years, the McFerrin Collection has become one of the world's most important private collections of Fabergé. While many of the pieces in this collection have been featured individually in other exhibitions and publications over the past 60 years, this event marks the first time that the McFerrin Collection has been presented for public display.

Houston Museum of Natural Science
12 January, 2010

Exhibition Highlights

Carl Fabergé was a master goldsmith and a legendary jeweler. Some of the most rare and spectacular masterpieces he created are on display in Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

Empress Josephine Tiara

This diamond tiara was created by Fabergé c. 1890. The stunning briolette diamonds were a gift from Tsar Alexander I given to the Empress Josephine after she was divorced from Napoleon Bonaparte. This piece is one of only a few tiaras ever made by Fabergé.

The Nobel Ice Egg

The first Fabergé egg ever created was commissioned from the House of Fabergé by Tsar Alexander III in 1885 as an Easter present for his wife, the Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. His son, Nicholas II, later commissioned treasures for his wife Alexandra and for his mother, continuing a tradition that would last more than 30 years. Fabergé made eggs for only a very few other clients; Swedish industrialist Dr. Emanuel Nobel was one of them, and he commissioned this treasure between 1913 and 1914.

This piece, a jeweled enameled Fabergé presentation egg, is also referred to as the Snowflake Egg. The shell is ingeniously enameled and engraved to simulate the tracery of frost against a misted ground. It opens to reveal a 'surprise' jeweled, rock crystal and diamond pendent watch. This design was made specifically for Dr. Nobel and interpreted in other jewelry pieces by Fabergé. Dr. Nobel gave these as favors at his dinner parties. Several examples of these 'ice jewels' are included in the exhibition.

Fire Screen Picture Frame

This intricately decorated picture frame (made between 1908-1917) of gold, platinum and enamel is meant to be viewed from both sides and is arguably one of the finest examples of gold work ever produced by Fabergé. One side features a photograph of Tsar Nicholas II, and the other his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. This was probably a gift from the Tsar to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The form was most likely inspired by a fire screen in her apartment by George Jacob.

Nicholas II Presentation Snuff Box, 1902

The Imperial Russian court was renowned for the lavish gifts presented to foreign dignitaries visiting Russia. Fabergé made hundreds of presentation boxes, but this is purported to be the finest. Made of gold and decorated with enamel and diamonds, the box features the cipher of Tsar Nicholas II on the cover. This box was presented by the Emperor to Leon Bourgeois, a French politician and statesman in 1902. He was one of 90 foreigners to receive a snuff box with the Emperor's initials.

The Wedding Clock, before 1896

This blue enameled clock was purchased jointly by Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1896 just weeks after they were married. It is amongst the first furnishings they selected for their marital home. The blue color stands for true love.

The Tsarina's Triangular Pink Clock

Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna purchased this clock from Fabergé on December 4, 1901 for 215 rubles. The Tsarina loaned it for display in the 1902 exhibition Artistic Objects and Miniatures by Fabergé in St. Petersburg, the first official public exhibition of Fabergé's work.

The McFerrin Collection also contains carved, jewel encrusted and enameled eggs in many other forms including seals, scent bottles, cosmetic cases and pendants, a pink sapphire and diamond brooch, as well as cigarette and cosmetic cases, clocks, picture frames and other objects from the workshops of Fabergé.