In a collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in the United States, the Palace Museum (故宫博物馆) opened an exhibition of over 200 beautifully crafted items created for the Russian imperial family—Fabergé Revealed. The exhibition opened in April and will remain open until July 17. If you are interested in checking out renowned items such as the Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg and the Monumental Kovsh with your kids, and taking a peek through history at the luxurious lives of the Russian imperial family, you may consider taking a trip to the museum this weekend.
Peter Carl Fabergé was a well-known Russian jeweler and goldsmith known for the imperial Easter eggs he designed and produced for Tsar Alexander III and other members of the Russian royalty. In 1885, Tsar Alexander III presented a gold Easter egg to his wife Marie Fedorovna as a gift. Alexander III gave detailed instructions for the production of the Easter egg and overlooked its progress, making suggestions along the way. In this way, the Hen Egg, made of gold in 1885, marked the beginning of the series of imperial Easter eggs commissioned for the Russian imperial family. This evolved into a tradition that continued on an annual basis for 32 years, ending in 1917.
Fabergé often used important events in the life of the Imperial Court as inspiration for the themes and designs of the Easter eggs, although a common trend that the eggs are well known for is the element of surprise, literally and figuratively. It was specifically requested that there must be a surprise within the egg incorporated into each design, according to the Fabergé website.
The Palace Museum’s collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a result of an agreement between the two institutions formed in 2011, with the goal of furthering the communication and deepening the interactions between the two museums. From October 18, 2014 to January 19, 2015, the two museums worked together on an exhibition in the VMFA on the Forbidden City. This current exhibition in the Palace Museum featuring 234 items is part of this effort to encourage cultural communication between the two countries. This is the first time that a large collection from a U.S. museum has traveled to the Palace Museum, according to the Palace Museum’s website.
The VMFA’s collection initially belonged to Lilian Thomas Pratt, and was given to the museum in 1947. This exhibition is a part of its ongoing tour to various venues in North America and East Asia, according to VMFA’s website.
“Our Fabergé collection—the largest in the United States (and outside of Russia)—is important due to the varied and important group of objects by or attributed to the Fabergé firm. Lillian Thomas Pratt—the collector now dead—gave us in 1947 about 170 objects by or attributed to the Fabergé firm. Fabergé is among the most important late 19th century firms of jewelers and silversmiths at the time,” according to Barry Shifman, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of the VMFA.
“I personally find these objects beautiful and important. Our museum is very fortunate to have such a varied and splendid group of Fabergé and Russian decorative. We have the largest collection of this type in any U.S. museum. The history of each object, as well as the history of the Fabergé firm, is fascinating. Plus, to be able to study objects that are related—or owned by—the last imperial family (the Romanovs) of Russia is thrilling! I find the quality and execution of these objects so interesting. There are many types of decoration and different techniques of creation…‘the overall quality’ of the individual works of art is so good that it is a real joy to curate such a fine collection,” Shifman commented.
When asked about the process of transporting these exhibits overseas to Beijing from Virginia, Nancy Nichols, the registrar of the VMFA, commented that, “as you expect, these are fragile and delicate works of art. They are carefully packed for travel by specially trained art handling and conservation staff. To handle the many details of international shipping, including all of the customs regulations, museums hire companies who specialize in shipping fine art.”
The exhibition is divided into four sections: “Gifts of Tsars” (沙皇的礼物), “Majestic Decorative Arts” (美轮美奂的装饰艺术), “Everyday Opulence” (日常的奢华), and “Power of Faith” (信仰的力量), in order to provide visitors with a systematically organized display of the exhibits.
“Faberge’s Russian treasures on display at Palace Museum” —China Daily: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2016-04/18/content_24640754.htm
Fabergé Revealed—Palace Museum Website, English:
“玲珑万象－－来自美国的俄罗斯皇家法贝热装饰艺术展” —Palace Museum Website, Chinese:
“Imperial Eggs”—Fabergé Website:
“About the Collection; Fabergé”—Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Website:
Featured image source: Wikimedia Commons