Hermione Eyre: Fabergé eggs: exquisite and completely naff

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is Fabergé Eggs are basically very, very expensive Kinder Surprises. These opulent knick-knacks have just gone on display at Buckingham Palace alongside the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress. Everyone seems to think they are charmant, eggsquisite. But these are tragic toys, the modern equivalent of Nero's violin – playthings for people completely out of touch with reality. They are cloyingly hideous, with all the artistic merit of flying ducks on a suburban wall, except made out of the most precious materials known to man.

Take the Mosaic Egg of 1914, which resembles a tapestry sampler, except every stitch is made out of precious stones. A perfect Easter present for the Empress who has everything. Then there is a miniature gold Louis XV-style escritoire, for the autocrat with tiny fingers. It makes you want to say: Bring on the Five-Year Plans.

Now, little lifelike animals that sit on mantelpieces are all very well. My grandma had several. But when they are carved in chalcedony and set with ruby eyes, like Edward VII's Norfolk terrier Caesar, they start to become slightly icky. We all make errors of taste– a crystal teddy here, a lava lamp there – but the very rich make them in perpetuity, and then the rest of us end up buying tickets to look at them.

Eggs made for the Imperial family are now on display inside the Kremlin. About a hundred years ago, the Russian army was mutinying and Bolsheviks were everywhere. "I know," said Tsar Nicholas. "I'll get that Fabergé chap to make me a teeny, tiny neo-classical pavilion in pink and green, with gold cherubs representing each of my family members. That'll make me feel better."

They are fascinating and important artefacts, so they should be. But that does not make them right. One egg celebrates a new royal yacht with a gold replica sailing upon a crystal sea, set with lapis lazuli dolphins. It's enough to make even an oligarch blush.

There are powerful exceptions. The Queen's collection includes a simple, lifelike Fabergé of cornflowers and oats given to the Queen Mother in 1944, who kept it in her shelter room at Buckingham Palace and described it as "a charming thing and so beautifully unwarlike". No one could deny her that, or find it unbeautiful. But many of the Imperial things are mental more than ornamental: oh-no-bibelots.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore