V&A's next blockbuster fashion exhibition will focus on Carl Fabergé

Copy of the Imperial Regalia by Fabergé. 1900

The State Hermitage Museum 2021 / V&A Museum

For many, the exquisitely bejewelled and vibrantly colourful Easter Eggs crafted by master jeweller Fabergé in the 19th century are synonymous with the Tsars and Tsarinas of Russia, closely associated with the rise and fall of the once-glamorous Imperial Family, through its wealthy excesses to its tragic demise. Yet that does not tell the full and fascinating story of Carl Fabergé and his life’s work, as a stunning new blockbuster exhibition from the V&A is set to explore later this year.

The Alexander Palace Egg by Fabergé. 1908

The Moscow Kremlin Museums / V&A Museum

Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, which opens in November, will investigate the jewellery house’s triumphs in Edwardian high society in Britain, where it opened its first and only shop outside of Russia in 1903. It was here that Maharajas, American heiresses, exiled Grand Dukes and British aristocrats flocked to buy Fabergé’s otherworldly creations, which became a status symbol for the upper echelons of society.

The Moscow Kremlin Egg by Fabergé. Gold, silver, onyx, enamel, 1906

The Moscow Kremlin Museums / V&A Museum

The 200 objects on display will be split into three main sections.
The first will emphasise the importance of the patronage of the Romanovs, for whom Fabergé was the official goldsmith. Included will be intimate gifts that the family of Tsar Nicholas II gave to each other, including rock crystal and diamond flowers, family portrait miniatures and a prayer book given by the Tsar to his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on his Coronation Day. Also in this section will be Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland’s aquamarine and diamond tiara – a token of love from Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to his bride on their wedding day.

Caesar, by Fabergé. Chalcedony, gold, enamel, rubies, 1908

Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021 / V&A Museum

The second theme is Fabergé’s time in London and how he cultivated such an aura of mystique and glamour around himself that people flocked from far and wide to purchase his creations. It will include the hardstone portraits he made for King Edward and Queen Alexandra based on the animals that they bred at Sandringham, as well as a commission from the King of his faithful Norfolk Terrier, Caesar, and a silver model portrait of his beloved race horse Persimmon. More tantalisingly, there will also be the diamond cigarette case gifted to the King by his mistress Mrs George Keppel, which featured a snake biting its tail – a symbol of unbroken and everlasting love.

Cigarette case by Fabergé. Two colour gold, guilloché enamel, diamonds, 1908

Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021 / V&A Museum

The final section will feature a display of the Imperial Easter Eggs, including the largest, the Moscow Kremlin Egg, and the Alexander Palace Egg, which features watercolour portraits of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra’s children. The Tercentenary Egg, which was created to celebrate 300 years of the Romanov dynasty, five years before the Royal Family’s assassination following the Russian Revolution, will also poignantly be on display. The fall of the dynasty, as well as the shift in focus for factories during the First and Second World Wars – spelled the end of Fabergé’s career.

Romanov Tercentenary Egg by Fabergé. 1913

The Moscow Kremlin Museums / V&A Museum

‘The story of Carl Fabergé, the legendary Russian Imperial goldsmith, is one of supreme luxury and unsurpassed craftsmanship,’ Kieran McCarthy and Hanne Faurby, Curators of Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, said. ‘Celebrating Fabergé’s extraordinary achievements, this exhibition focuses on the over-looked importance of his London branch, the only one outside of Russia. It attracted a global clientele of Royalty, aristocrats, business titans and socialites. Through Fabergé’s creations the exhibition will explore timeless stories of love, friendship and unashamed social climbing. It will take the visitor on a journey of sublime artistry and patronage towards the revolution that tragically closed Fabergé – but will send visitors away on a high, by honouring Fabergé’s greatest legacy, with a dazzling final display of his iconic Easter Eggs.’

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