Curator's Choice: Faberge

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The name of Carl Faberge, court jeweller of the last tsars of Russia, inevitably conjures up his sumptuous series of Imperial Easter eggs. Between 1884 and 1917 the Faberge workshops created 56 such presents: 10 to be given by Tsar Alexander III to his Danish wife, Maria Feodorovna; 23 as gifts from their son, Tsar Nicholas II to his mother and 23 more for Nicholas's wife.

My choice would be the celebrated egg of Easter 1897 as it incorporates all the qualities identified with the Faberge oeuvre: inventive genius, ingenuity and brilliant craftmanship. The shell is covered in transclucent yellow enamel and decorated with a trellis-pattern of black double-headed eagles.

The egg conceals, within a velvet-lined recess, a miniature model of a carriage, a 3 in replica of a coupe coach built by the Imperial coach maker, Johann Buckendahl, in 1793. This comfortable, well-suspended vehicle, drawn by a team of eight white horses, was used (minus its crown) by the Empress-to-be at the triumphal entry of the Imperial couple into Moscow on May 25th, 1896. The tiny Faberge version of gold, red enamel, rock crystal, mother-of-pearl and diamonds was produced in 15 months of painstaking work by craftsman George Stein (with numerous visits to Buckendahl's original) and an even tinier egg, pave-set with brilliants, once hung inside. Meticulously articulated and suspended on two coiled springs, the coach is a small wonder of miniaturisation.

Archduke Dr Geza von Habsburg is curator of the exhibition. The Coronation Coach Egg is one of nine Imperial Easter eggs currently on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum (to 10 April), together with 350 other Faberge objects from Russian museums and western collections

(Photograph omitted)