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Royal Fabergé - Buckingham Palace

Mosaic Imperial Easter Egg acquired by Queen Mary and King George V, 1933. The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Exhibition preview

OVER 100 masterpieces by Peter Carl Fabergé, the greatest Russian jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, will go on display in a special exhibition at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.

Entitled Royal Fabergé, the exhibition explores how six successive generations of the British Royal Family, from Queen Victoria to Her Majesty The Queen and
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, have shaped the finest collection of Fabergé in the world.

The exhibition includes a number of works on public display for the first time.

From dazzling Imperial Easter eggs, delicate flower ornaments and enchanting animal sculptures to cigarette cases, photograph frames and desk clocks, Fabergé produced a diverse range of works, often turning the most routine object into a miniature work of art. The vast majority of his designs were never repeated, and most pieces were made entirely by hand.

Fabergé was appointed as Supplier to the Imperial Court by Tsar Alexander III of Russia in 1885. The success of his business was inextricably linked to the patronage of the Romanov dynasty and the close ties between the British, Danish and Russian royal families, who often exchanged works by Fabergé as personal gifts.

Queen Victoria was the first reigning British monarch to acquire an object by Fabergé, when in December 1896 she was presented with a notebook and case on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. The gift was made by Tsar Nicholas II and one of her favourite granddaughters, Alix of Hesse, who had become Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna two years earlier. The notebook is signed by the crowned heads of Europe who attended the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Buckingham Palace.

The most significant influence on the formation of the royal Fabergé collection was the Danish Princess Alexandra, the future consort of King Edward VII. Her sister Dagmar became Tsarina Maria Feodorovna upon her marriage to Tsar Alexander III in 1866. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra shared a mutual admiration for Fabergé’s creations, and the Tsar and Tsarina regularly sent them pieces from Russia.

The Queen acquired examples of virtually every type of object that the firm produced, particularly favouring the intricate flower studies and miniature carvings of animals.

In 1907 King Edward VII commissioned Fabergé to produce portrait models of the horses and dogs on the Sandringham Estate, including his beloved Norfolk terrier, Caesar, as a gift for Queen Alexandra. The royal couple’s enthusiastic joint patronage of Fabergé undoubtedly prompted the firm to open a London branch.

The next generation of royal collectors, King George V and Queen Mary, were regular customers at Fabergé’s London branch. The King formed an important collection of boxes and cigarette cases, but also appreciated Fabergé’s humorous creations, receiving a clockwork elephant automaton from his family for Christmas 1929. Queen Mary was particularly keen on Fabergé’s objets de fantasie and acquired several miniature objects, including furniture, a grand piano and a tea set.

During the 1930s King George V and Queen Mary made significant additions to the collection when they purchased three magnificent Imperial Easter Eggs, formerly in the possession of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and confiscated during the Russian Revolution in 1917.

King George VI inherited and regularly used the collection of Fabergé cigarette cases created by his father and grandfather, and added to it during his reign. In 1946 the King purchased a number of pieces for Queen Elizabeth, including a charming miniature desk.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had a life-long interest in the works of Fabergé and between the 1940s and 1970s acquired a number of pieces, ranging from animals and flowers to works in the traditional Russian style. A special viewing of the 1977 ground-breaking Fabergé exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum was organised in her honour.

The Royal Family today continues the tradition of interest in the works of Fabergé. A number of pieces have been added to the royal Fabergé collection during the reign of Her Majesty The Queen and are on display for the first time, including a crystal inkwell presented to The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and The Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of their wedding in November 1947, and a clock purchased by The Queen in 1959.

Works by Fabergé belonging to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will also go on display, including a desk seal in the form of a frog and, on display for the first time, pieces from a bequest made in 2006 by Princess Irina Bagration-Mukhransky, whose husband Prince Teymuraz Bagration was a descendant of Grand Duke Constantine, the second son of Tsar Nicholas I.

Royal Fabergé is part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace (July 23 to October 3, 2011).

To book in advance tickets and for more information visit www.royalcollection.org.uk or call (+44) (0)20 7766 7300.

Image: Mosaic Imperial Easter Egg acquired by Queen Mary and King George V, 1933. The Royal Collection © 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.