The Victoria and Albert Museum will present a Fabergé exhibition that will focus on the Carl Fabergé’s relationship with London. It will conclude with three of his legendary Imperial Easter Eggs that will go on display for the first time in the U.K.
The three bejeweled Easter eggs will be among 200 objects in the exhibition titled, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution,” which will tell the story of Carl Fabergé, the man, and his internationally recognized firm that symbolized Russian craftsmanship and elegance – an association further strengthened by its connection to the romance, glamour and tragedy of the Russian Imperial family.
The London exhibition will open to the public November 20 and will run until May 8, 2022.
The three Imperial Easter Eggs, which have never been shown in the U.K., will be presented in the third and final section of the exhibition. They include the largest Imperial Egg, the Moscow Kremlin Egg, inspired by the architecture of the Dormition Cathedral, on loan from the Moscow Kremlin Museums; the Alexander Palace Egg, featuring watercolor portraits of the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra and containing a surprise model of the palace inside; and the Tercentenary Egg, created to celebrate 300 years of the Romanov dynasty, only a few years before the dynasty crumbled. Other Fabergé eggs that will be featured include Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Basket of Flowers Egg, on loan from the British Royal Collection Trust.
The exhibition will include at least one tiara, which will be shown in the second section of the exhibition, dedicated to the mastery of techniques and intricate detailing that became synonymous with Carl Fabergé and his firm. Described by the V&A Museum as a “dazzling beauty,” the aquamarine and diamond tiara was a “token of love” from Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to his bride Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland on their wedding day.
This section will also feature the only known example of solid gold plate service crafted by Fabergé Moscow branch.
Much of the exhibition will explore the little known Anglo-Russian nature of Carl Fabergé’s enterprise with his only branch outside of Russia opening in London in 1903. Royalty, aristocrats, American heiresses, exiled Russian Grand Dukes, Maharajas, wealthy financiers and socialites flocked there to buy gifts of unparalleled luxury for each other. Fabergé works were as popular in Britain as they were in Russia, according to the curators of the V&A Museum exhibition, Kieran McCarthy and Hanne Faurby.
The first main section of the exhibition highlights the important patronage of the Romanov family. A miniature of the Imperial Regalia, lent by the Hermitage Museum, made for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle capture’s Carl Fabergé’s role as official goldsmith to the Imperial family. Its members often gave each other intimate Fabergé gifts, and this will be explored through bespoke, ornate objects, including flowers made from rock crystal, gold and rose-cut diamonds and exquisite family portrait miniatures. This section will also touch upon Carl Fabergé’s youth, his travels throughout Europe, and entry into the family firm.
The nurturing spirit of Fabergé will be shown in the work of one of his best-known female designers, Alma Pihl. Some of her most innovative and enduring works will be on display, including an “ice crystal” pendant made from rock crystal, diamonds and platinum.
The second section will tell the story of Fabergé’s time in London, including how the firm flourished under royal patronage, and how its creations became a social currency for gift giving and ostentatious displays of wealth, among the cosmopolitan elite who gathered in the city.
Fabergé’s success at the 1900 Paris Exposition made it clear that the legendary Russian goldsmith would have a customer base outside Russia. Fabergé’s choice of London for its new premises was partly because it was the financial capital of the world, a luxury retail destination able to draw a wealthy and international clientele. It was also the home of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra who were already avid Fabergé collectors, making royal patronage in London highly likely.
While the Russian Revolution and World War I irrevocably changed the social order in Russia and Europe, the taste for Fabergé survived, especially in London, where the firm’s works continues to be prized.