Royal Fabergé


"From dazzling Imperial Easter eggs, delicate flower ornaments and enchanting
animal sculptures to cigarette cases, photograph frames and desk clocks.
"
 

Over 100 masterpieces by Peter Carl Fabergé, the greatest Russian jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were on display in a special exhibition at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace in 2011.  Royal Fabergé explored 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 unparalleled in size, range and quality.  The exhibition included a world number of works on public display for the first time.

 
Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Edward with Russian Imperial Family
Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Edward with Russian Imperial Family, Balmoral, 1896
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
]
 

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.

 
Fabergé Desk seal dating from 1903-17
Desk seal dating from 1903-17 and given to the Prince of Wales in 1981
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
 
Faberge Notebook case
Notebook case presented to Queen Victoria to mark her Diamond Jubilee, 1897
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
 

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.

 
Fabergé Elephant bell push given to Queen Alexandra as a gift from Tsarina Feodorovna
Elephant bell push given to Queen Alexandra as a gift from Tsarina Feodorovna, 1896-c.1900
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
 

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.

 
Tsar Nicholas II and George Prince of Wales
Tsar Nicholas II and George Prince of Wales (later King George V, Isle of Wight, 1909
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
 

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.

 
Fabergé Presentation box with portrait of tsar Nicholas II
Presentation box with portrait of tsar Nicholas II, 1916.
Given to King George V by Queen Mary on his birthday, 1934
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
 
Fabergé Miniature tea set originally belonging to Queen Alexandra, c.1900

Miniature tea set originally belonging to Queen Alexandra, c.1900
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]

 

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.

 
Fabergé Mosaic Imperial Easter Egg acquired by Queen Mary and King George V, 1933

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

 
Fabergé Miniature desk dating from 1896-1900, purchased by King George VI for Queen Elizabeth in 1946

Miniature desk dating from 1896-1900, purchased by King George VI for Queen Elizabeth in 1946
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]

 

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.

 
Fabergé Inkwell, dating from before 1896

Inkwell, dating from before 1896, given to The Queen and
The Duke of Edinburgh as a wedding present in 1947
[The Royal Collection (c) 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]

 

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 was part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at BuckinghamPalace, 23 July to 3 October 2011. Information: www.royalcollection.org.uk.