Indepth Arts News: |
"Virginia Museum of Fine Arts"
1999-07-20 until 0000-00-00
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
USA United States of America
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' world-renowned collection of Russian imperial Easter eggs by Peter Carl Fabergé and other Russian
decorative arts has returned to view.
The collection was removed from public display last summer for gallery renovation. The museum's collection of Fabergé objects is one of
the largest of any museum outside Russia.
The new, thematically organized Fabergé gallery features many recent gifts to the collection, as well as pieces that have been specially
cleaned and restored to their original splendor.
As a signature holding of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Fabergé collection, a gift of Lillian Thomas Pratt, is beloved by our
visitors, says Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director Katharine C. Lee.
Old favorites are now joined by recent gifts from other donors, as well as other fine objects that have long
remained in storage. Visitors will enjoy our exciting new installation that directs the eye both to the
preciousness of these works of art as well as to their remarkable history.
Among the recent gifts featured in the new display are an impressive silver ceremonial cup and a group of
colorful enamels in the Old-Russian style donated by Mrs. Rita Gans of New York.
The new gallery showcases the full range of holdings bequeathed to the museum in 1947 by Fredericksburg
patron Lillian Thomas Pratt, the wife of General Motors executive John Lee Pratt. Mrs. Pratt formed her
collection - ranging from her well-known jeweled imperial eggs to a humble copper ashtray made just
before the Russian revolution - between 1933 and 1946. The objects were created during the reigns of the
last two czars of Russia - Alexander III and Nicholas II - just before and after the turn of the century.
Also on view in the new gallery is an assortment of objects at a child's eye-level for easier viewing by
The new installation was organized by curator Dr. David Park Curry.
This three-handled vase
is by Feodor Rückert, who
worked in Moscow. It is
made of silver gilt, shaded
cloisonné enamel and
semi-precious stones. It
stands 9 ½ inches tall.
Photo by Katherine
Wetzel, © 1999 Virginia
Museum of Fine Arts
Our Fabergé collection rewards scrutiny - these pieces are so densely layered with meaning, Curry says. One can explore aesthetics,
the history of art and architecture, political and social history, even shopping and collecting patterns within Fabergé 's glittering world.
Master jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé , the grandson of a French Huguenot who settled in Estonia, was born in St. Petersburg, where his
father was a jeweler. After an apprenticeship in Frankfurt, he took over his father's shop and won a Gold Medal at the Pan-Russian
exhibition in 1882. Alexander III was among those who attended the event and were intrigued by Fabergé 's objects of fantasy.
Fabergé was named goldsmith and jeweler to the Russian Court in the mid-1880s and proposed to Alexander III the creation of an
elaborate Easter egg to be presented to the Czarina. Alexander was so taken by this first imperial egg that the special Easter creations
became a tradition throughout his reign and that of his son and successor, Nicholas II.
This montage is of the five
Fabergé imperial Easter eggs
given to the Virginia
Museum of Fine Arts in
1947 by Lillian Thomas
Photo by Katherine Wetzel.
© 1999 Virginia Museum of
Of the 50 imperial eggs fashioned by Fabergé , five have disappeared. The five in the Virginia Museum's
Pratt Collection are all from Nicholas' reign. The eggs are witty and ingenious in their execution: each
contains a surprise - a hidden mechanical device, a secret object, or concealed pictures.
The museum's earliest, the Rock Crystal Egg, is perhaps the most spectacular. Presented to the Czarina in
1896, the year of Nicholas' coronation, it stands 10 inches tall. The delicate egg, carved from clear rock
crystal, contains 12 tiny paintings of places that held special memories for the last czar and czarina.
The egg is encircled by a band of green enamel set with diamonds and is crowned by a 26-carat Siberian
cabochon emerald. The pedestal is made of gold and rock crystal. Its surprise is that the emerald, when
depressed, engages a hook that revolves the miniatures.
The Pratt Collection also includes the 1897 Pelican Egg, the 1903 Peter the Great Egg, the 1912
Czarevitch Egg, and the 1915 Red Cross Egg. Three years after the presentation of the Red Cross Egg,
Nicholas and his family were assassinated by Bolshevik revolutionaries in a Siberian basement.
The Fabergé workshops, which Fabergé had opened in Moscow, Odessa and Kiev by the late 19th century and which at one point had
employed more than 500 craftsmen, also ceased to exist when the Romanov dynasty ended. Fabergé himself escaped to France. He
died in 1920 in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the age of 74.
Funds for the renovation of the Fabergé gallery were donated by Mr. and Mrs. T. Fleetwood Garner, Mr. and Mrs. Robert W.
Cabaniss Jr., and Mrs. Elizabeth Golsan Schneider. Additional funding was received from the Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine
Arts and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Fund. Schwarzschild Jewelers is the corporate sponsor.