Imperial Crafts: Fabergé’s Legacy In A New Museum

Heike Söns


The famous Easter eggs on display at the Fabergé Museum are part of a centuries-old royal tradition in Russia. Peter Carl Farbergé, also known as the “Goldsmith of the Czars”, was commissioned to design each delicate piece as a way to pamper and delight the czarinas and empresses of the royal family. The original collection showcased 57 exclusive pieces, each intricately decorated with fine metals and precious stones. Czar Alexander III gave his wife eleven of the extraordinary eggs, and his son, Czar Nicholas II, continued the tradition by commissioning new pieces as gifts for his own wife and mother. Fabergé’s imperial Easter eggs remain highly sought after today, and many have been auctioned off for astronomical sums.

Fabergé's legacy

The masterful workmanship and rich history associated with the artist attract hundreds of visitors to the new Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The museum was inaugurated in December of 2013 with a collection that includes nine of the 42 surviving imperial eggs and other items of fine jewelry created by Fabergé for the Russian royal family.

About 3,000 pieces dating from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries complement the collection of imperial eggs, which remains the focal point of the exhibition. But he undisputed star of the museum is the Imperial Coronation Egg, commissioned in 1897 by the last Czar Nicolas II as a gift for his mother Maria Fyodorovna.

Located at 21 Fontanka Avenue, the new institution also houses permanent collections including the celebrated acquisitions of the Link of Times Cultural and Historical Foundation, established by Russian billionaire businessman Viktor Vekselberg in 2004. “We started this project over ten years ago, and we are happy to present the results,” Vekselberg said during the inauguration.

Fabergé's legacy

The aim of this museum is, of course, to celebrate the legacy of Peter Carl Fabergé. To that end its spacious galleries display captivating Muscovite enameled works, cigarette cases, frames, buckles and watches that show the unmatched expertise of the Russian jeweler.

But art and jewelry are not the only attractions at the Fabergé Museum, the restored Shuvalov palace also draws crowds to the institution. The magnificent neoclassical building, built in the mid 2oth century by Giacomo Quarenghi, had been abandoned since the Russian Revolution of 1917 and was only seven years ago—after changing owners several times— that Vekselberg acquired the majestic property.

Fabergé's legacy

Now, after a thorough restoration, the palace exudes all of its former glory. Magnificent marble stairs lead from the ground to the first floor, which houses offices and a grand ballroom. Adjacent to the ballroom is the main exhibition area, divided into 12 spacious galleries. Silver and porcelain pieces as well as various works of Russian art share this space. Apart from the collection of priceless eggs, the exhibit also includes about 200 objects that were sold to Vekselberg by the Forbes family in New York, circa 2004, for 100 million dollars.

According to Vladimir Voronchenko, who serves as Director of the Fabregé museum, “The institution aspires to become a living entity and an active cultural center”. It is their hope that the space will host exhibitions from other museums, as well. These collaborations, coupled with the value of the exceptional works of art housed in these galleries will undoubtedly help to illustrate the enormous impact of the new Fabergé Museum collection in St. Petersburg.

© | 2019