Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 20 November 2021 to 8 May 2022

Exhibition Review – Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 20 November 2021 to 8 May 2022

The V&A present a major new exhibition entitled Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution which is the first exhibition devoted to the international prominence of the legendary Russian goldsmith, Carl Fabergé, and the importance of his little-known London branch. The highlight of the exhibition is largest collection of the legendary Imperial Easter Eggs in a generation are on display together, several of which are being shown in the UK for the first time.

The exhibition features over 200 objects across three main sections, the exhibition tells the story of Carl Fabergé, whose internationally recognised firm symbolised Russian craftsmanship and elegance.

The first 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 illustrates the exquisite craftmanship of Fabergé and how the firm became the official goldsmith to the Imperial family.

Part of this role was to provide a service to many in the Imperial family who gave each other intimate Fabergé gifts, this exhibition features many of these gifts including flowers made from rock crystal, gold and rose-cut diamonds and family portrait miniatures. This section also considers Carl Fabergé’s youth, his travels throughout Europe, and entry into the family firm.

The only known example of solid gold tea service crafted by Fabergé is also on display, one of the most magnificent items to emerge from the firm’s Moscow branch.

The second section of the exhibition tells the story of Fabergé’s time in London, after his success at the 1900 Paris Exposition, Fabergé was keen to expand outside of Russia. Fabergé’s choice of London for its new store was influenced by the fact that Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were already Fabergé collectors and the strong links between the British and Russian Royal Families.

Fabergé developed some of his works to his British clientele. He created hardstone portraits of the farm animals King Edward and Queen Alexandra bred at Sandringham, their favourite country estate, and objects enamelled in The King’s horse racing colours.

Snuffboxes decorated with topographical views, buildings and monuments were also popular. A nephrite cigar box, set with a sepia enamelled view of the Houses of Parliament, was bought by Grand Duke Michael of Russia on 5 November 1908, the day of Guy Fawkes, and given to King Edward VII.

Despite the success, there was a dark cloud on the horizon and the Great War and Russian Revolution provided a sudden and dramatic end to the Fabergé enterprise. In 1917, the Revolution reached Fabergé’s workshops in Russia and its outpost in London ceased to operate.

The final section of the exhibition celebrates the legacy of Fabergé through the iconic Imperial Easter Eggs with a display of 15 of these famous treasures. This is the largest collection on public display for over 25 years. The collection on display includes several that have never before been shown in the UK including the largest Imperial Egg – the Moscow Kremlin Egg.

The Alexander Palace Egg, featuring watercolour portraits of the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra – and containing a surprise model of the palace inside. The Tercentenary Egg, created to celebrate 300 years of the Romanov dynasty, only a few years before the dynasty crumbled. Other eggs that feature include the recently rediscovered Third Imperial Egg of 1887, found by a scrap dealer in 2011.

The Peacock Egg of 1907-8, shown on public display for the first time in over a decade, containing a surprise of an enamelled gold peacock automaton

and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Basket of Flowers Egg, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection is also on display.

This interesting and attractive exhibition provides some insights into the history and legacy of Fabergé. The firm’s popularity amongst the Russian Imperial family and Edwardian high society clientele led to a wide and eclectic range of objects being produced which are still highly prized by collectors especially in Europe and the United States. It is of considerable irony that recently Russians have become significant collectors of Fabergé’s work. The exhibition also illustrates how far removed were some royal families and cosmopolitan elites from the political and social realities of their day. The Russian Imperial family are a classic example of pursuing luxury and excess whilst their country was plunging into despair.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the V & A website here

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