This weekend I was finally able to make it to Fabergé: The Rise and Fall exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). It was on my to do list since the exhibition opened in October. I think it is safe to say I was not alone in wanting to learn more about Peter Carl Fabergé and his works since right after purchasing our tickets for the 3pm entrance the remainder of the tickets for the day were sold out.
It was easy to see why people are flocking to the DIA to see this exhibition. The story of the House of Fabergé is a remarkable one, though it is also a sad story.
Peter Carl Fabergé started training to be a goldsmith with his father and eventually took over the family jewelry store in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1872. With the help of many skilled craftsmen, Fabergé’s company became the largest in Russia with 500 employees and branches in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London. It produced some 150,000 objects between 1882 and 1917. His largest patrons were the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia.
In 1885, Tsar Alexander III gave the House of Fabergé the title; “Goldsmith by Special Appointment to the Imperial Crown” and appointed Fabergé the Court Supplier as a reward for the first of the Easter eggs (the Hen Egg). Fabergé made two eggs each year for the Tsar who gave one to his wife and one to his mother.
However, in 1917, the Bolsheviks seized the House of Fabergé and Peter Carl Fabergé and his family fled and eventually made their way to Switzerland.
Peter Carl Fabergé died in 1920.
The pictures I’ve seen of Fabergé’s work never prepared me for the beauty of 225 pieces in this exhibition. The collection, on loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, is more than just the famed Faberge Easter Egg collection. From carved parasol handles to picture frames to the beautiful carved animals it is a delight to the eye. Let’s not forget the chess sets they produced, or the amazing silver kovsh (punch bowls). The monumental kovsh is something in and of itself.
You can tell Carl Faberge was a perfectionist, and he expected his workmen to be as well. The craftsmanship it took to create even the smallest egg pendant is still boggling my mind as I write this.
The opulence of the Romanov family can be felt as you walk through sections of the exhibition.
The DIA is also showing items from its own collection alongside the traveling exhibition to give guests an idea of what it might have been like in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.
When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, it didn’t just end 300 years of the Romanov line of rulers, it ended 30 years of Faberge’s hard work and vision. It is because of collectors like Lillian Thomas Pratt (the wife of a General Motors executive John Lee Pratt in the 1930s) that we can still enjoy these priceless pieces of art.
Faberge: The Rise and Fall will be open until January 21, 2013 at the DIA. Tickets to the exhibition are $15 for adults, $8 for children (6-17 years of age), and members get in for free. Of course, if you’d like to see only the rest of the museum, a delight in itself, admission is free for residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.
If you would like to have a chance to see these one of a kind pieces be sure to book your tickets early at the DIA website, because they sell out fast!