This huge exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum has been four years in the making. The curators have managed to secure loans of priceless jewellery and sculptures crafted by Russian designer Fabergé and his team of craftsmen and women from the Queen, museums in Russia and around the world along with private collections. Imagine owning a piece of jewellery so magnificent – would you ever dare handle it, use it, wear it?
Carl Fabergé was a favourite of the Russian royal family and his name is synonymous with those extraordinary Imperial Easter eggs commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. The exhibition has assembled the largest collection of these eggs and they certainly create an impressive finale.
But it was the earlier pieces which I really enjoyed. Carl Fabergé built up a huge atelier of craftsmen and women in St Petersburg and enjoyed patronage from the Russian royal family until the Russian Revolution in 1917. He then moved to Finland and later to London where he set up a workshop, studio and showroom which attracted Edwardian aristocrats and wealthy patrons from around the world.
Amongst his team were talented artists and sculptors who found ways to use the most precious stones and metals in extraordinary and radical ways. I was particularly struck by the work of Alma Pihl who created a range of “Winter Jewels”. I loved the pendant made from rock crystal with diamonds and platinum silver which was based on frost patterns she saw on the window of her St Petersburg studio.
The pieces I was most drawn to were of people and animals. There are some astonishing miniature portraits of Cossack body guards, so detailed, so lifelike. And some more playful ones of characters made for the British royal family as gifts or simply objects for their own collections.
These impressions of animals carved from hardstone are so expressive and charming.
But it’s those Easter eggs which are spectacular to view. In a large gallery, they are arranged on plinths, each with their own bodyguard. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a space filled with so many objects of such value and exquisite beauty!
The show is on at the V&A until 8th May 2022.