Fab­u­lous Fabergé

It is the Rus­sia Sea­son at the Sains­bury Cen­tre. RE­BECCA MACNAUGHTON looks at what will be on show

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

The hottest ex­hi­bi­tion ticket of the year at the Sains­bury Cen­tre

WHEN HEAR­ING the name ‘Fabergé’ you could be for­given for won­der­ing what it has to do with Nor­folk; but a new ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing at the Sains­bury Cen­tre later this month will ex­plain all. The Rus­sia Sea­son: Royal Fabergé and Rad­i­cal

Rus­sia, open­ing on Oc­to­ber 14, will re­veal the ex­quis­ite beauty of the work of cel­e­brated jew­eller Peter Carl Fabergé with a show­case of over 60 ob­jects linked to the San­dring­ham Es­tate. Fabergé be­gan cre­at­ing his trea­sures in a sim­ple base­ment work­shop, but be­tween 1884 and 1917 pro­duced an es­ti­mated 200,000 pieces of jewellery, sil­ver­ware and minia­tures.

Per­haps the most fa­mous of the ob­jects on show will be the Bas­ket of Flow­ers Im­pe­rial Easter Egg, an ob­jet d’art which fea­tures a del­i­cate bas­ket, blos­som­ing bou­quet and in­tri­cate arch­ing han­dle.

One of only 50 eggs ever made, it was gifted to Alexan­dra Feodor­ovna in 1901 just as her aunt and un­cle, Ed­ward and Alexan­dra, took the throne in Bri­tain. Such royal ties saw Fabergé be­come an in­ter­na­tional name, and in 1903, he opened a shop in Lon­don – the only one of its kind out­side the Rus­sian Em­pire.

In a cel­e­bra­tion of Ed­war­dian aesthetic, the fas­ci­na­tion with Fabergé con­tin­ued to grow in the Royal fam­ily and, in 1907, the es­teemed work­shop crossed con­ti­nents to ar­rive in Nor­folk for a very spe­cial com­mis­sion. Ed­ward VII had re­quested por­trait sculp­tures to be made of San­dring­ham’s res­i­dent dogs and horses as a gift to his wife, Queen Alexan­dra.

The project was ex­tended to in­clude other an­i­mals on the royal es­tate, and sculp­tors from St. Petersburg ar­rived to make life-like casts. Farm breeds indige­nous to Nor­folk, such as turkey, sheep and pi­geon, were in­cluded, as well as the more ex­otic brown bear, be­lieved to have been res­i­dent on the es­tate un­til the late 1800s. Such a de­tailed, con­sci­en­tious prac­tise pro­duced nat­u­ral­is­tic sculp­tures that are even recog­niseable by name, and in­cluded Per­sim­mon, Queen Alexan­dra’s cham­pion race­horse and Cae­sar, Ed­ward’s favourite Nor­folk ter­rier.

The ex­hi­bi­tion will in­clude sev­eral of the pieces from the San­dring­ham com­mis­sion, as well as a record num­ber of loans from pri­vate and pub­lic col­lec­tions in Bri­tain and Amer­ica. Vin­tage films and pho­to­graphs will fur­ther ex­plore the pro­cesses used by the ex­tra­or­di­nary crafts­men, and show­case skills no longer used to­day.

Yet the ex­hi­bi­tion it­self cov­ers more than just Fabergé’s vi­sion­ary tal­ent: “This is a story about the huge sig­nif­i­cance of small things,” ex­plains Ian Collins, the ex­hi­bi­tion’s cu­ra­tor. “Royal Fabergé will also tell the saga of San­dring­ham – the newly-bought royal retreat where Alexan­dra went after her hon­ey­moon in 1863 and where she died in 1925.”

It will also tell the story of the peo­ple who helped make the place, in­clud­ing land agent Frank Beck. He had over­seen the Fabergé project but van­ished with 16 es­tate staff one af­ter­noon, in Au­gust 1915, at Gal­lipoli. His gold watch, a gift from Alexan­dra, was re­trieved after the war and re­turned to San­dring­ham for Frank’s daugh­ter on her wed­ding day. The watch will now be ex­hib­ited for the first time.

Pieces re­lat­ing to the San­dring­ham com­mis­sion re­mained in Nor­folk un­til Queen Alexan­dra’s death in 1925, be­fore be­ing moved to Buck­ing­ham Palace. Yet a late ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tion – the Crow – re­mained in Nor­folk, says Ian Collins, and was pur­chased at a piv­otal time: “A spec­tac­u­lar and sin­is­ter crow was added in Novem­ber 1914, when the First World War was al­ready in a bloody stale­mate and these birds were scav­eng­ing the bat­tle­fields. By then the Fabergé work­shops were pro­duc­ing mil­lions of bul­lets and hand grenades.”

From a base­ment jewellery shop to a place in in­ter­na­tional con­flict, it is fit­ting that so many of Fabergé’s com­mis­sions will be re­turned to Nor­folk, the county whose very Royal pa­tron­age con­trib­uted to the jewellery-maker’s in­ter­na­tional suc­cess. The Rus­sia Sea­son: Royal Faberge and Rad­i­cal Rus­sia, opens at the Sains­bury Cen­tre on Oc­to­ber 14, and will run un­til Fe­bru­ary 11, 2018. Tick­ets are £12/£10.50 for con­ces­sions, and can be bought on­line at www.scva.ac.uk.

Left: The Bas­ket of Flow­ers Egg, 1901 Royal Col­lec­tion Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth II 2017 Right: Vi­o­let © A La Vieille Russie, New York

Far left: Cae­sar, c.1908 Royal Col­lec­tion Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth II 2017

Right: Five-colour gold dou­ble mar­riage cup, pre 1896 © A La Vieille Russie, New York Left: Cig­a­rette case, c. 1910 © A La Vieille Russie, New York

Left: Queen Alexan­dra’s Dor­mouse, c. 1910 Royal Col­lec­tion Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth II 2017

Be­low: Framed pho­to­graph of Queen Alexan­dra. c. 1907-1908 Royal Col­lec­tion Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth II 2017

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