DetroitOctober 17, 2012
DIA displays dazzling, delicate jeweled works from House of Fabergé
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
Collectibles today might bring to mind dolls, plates or Precious Moments figurines, but in the years leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the fall of the tsar, the term meant delicate, handcrafted items made with precious metals and gemstones by the House of Fabergé.
Best known for the dazzling jeweled Easter eggs they created for the tsar and his family, the House of Fabergé created tiny luxury items that, in many cases, cost far more than the annual salary of the average Russian worker. The Detroit Institute of Arts is showcasing some of these priceless pieces in “Fabergé: The Rise and Fall, Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.” Yao-Fen You, the DIA’s assistant curator of European art and the curator, said about 225 objects are in this exhibit, which opened Oct. 14 and runs through Jan. 21, 2013.
“We are pleased to bring you this show that celebrates extraordinary objects,” You said. “As extraordinary objects, they tell extraordinary stories.”
This exhibit features six imperial Easter eggs, of which only 50 are known to have survived and only 42 recovered. One feature of the jeweled marvels was the surprise — and, in some cases, surprises — contained inside, including small family portraits in ornate frames. A replica of one of the famed eggs used in the heist movie “Ocean’s Twelve” is on display, as well.
Besides the Easter eggs, the House of Fabergé made many other upscale items, including small collectible animals carved out of stone and featuring jewels and precious metals, small frames for photographs, chess sets, enameled cups and bowls, cigarette cases, and miniature jeweled egg pendants for people who wanted to emulate the Romanov family, but didn’t have their wealth. Miniatures were a Fabergé hallmark, and because each piece was made by hand, no two were exactly alike. The company was known for its attention to detail, and an example of a piece by French competitor Cartier shows the superiority of Fabergé craftsmanship.
DIA Director Graham Beal called these pieces “extraordinary works of art.”
The company was wildly successful at one point. The House of Fabergé employed a large roster of artisans, including jewelers, gem cutters, stone carvers, goldsmiths and enamellers — 200 in Moscow and another 300 in St. Petersburg. At its peak, the company had a staff of more than 1,500 craftsmen and was selling what in today’s dollars would be $175 million worth of goods annually.
DIA Head of Interpretation Swarupa Anila said the exhibit includes two videos that detail the steps in hardstone carving and guilloche enameling.
“We want visitors to appreciate the labor-intensive process” behind these pieces, Anila said.
Large photographs capture the workspaces and imperial palace in an effort to bring the period to life.
Visitors obviously can’t touch the actual artworks, but the exhibit features touch stations where they can feel the different textures of stones as they go from raw materials to polished pieces, and there’s even a place where visitors can design their own egg.
The name “Fabergé” has since been sold multiple times and has been associated with drugstore fragrances like Brut and Babe. But if the Fabergé of modern times has lost much of its luster, the works created roughly a century ago continue to enchant and glitter brightly.
“These are objects you will want to come see over and over again,” You said.
The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward in Detroit’s Cultural Center. For more information, visit www.dia.org or call (313) 833-7900.
- Last 7 Days
- Last 30 Days
- Missing woman found dead - West Bloomfield
- BHS Orchestra selected to perform at Carnegie Hall - Berkley
- Emagine scraps plans for Roseville location - Roseville
- All in the family - Clinton Township
- Man robs Roseville bank - Roseville
- Christmas Wonderfest brings holiday wonder to Novi - Metro Detroit
- Police seek help in fatal hit-and-run - Clinton Township
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer - Shelby Township
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams - Walled Lake
- Mom, man she met online to stand trial on child sex charge - Warren
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee - Macomb Township
- East Detroit student dies following pool accident - Eastpointe
- Attorney dies in Harper Avenue crash - St. Clair Shores
- CVHS students to stage production of ‘Hairspray’ - Clinton Township
- Sterling woman hurt in shooting - Sterling Heights
- Christmas comes to the Shores - St. Clair Shores
- County board considers regional water authority proposal - Macomb County
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams
- BHS Orchestra selected to perform at Carnegie Hall
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee
- Child prodigy becomes youngest artist exhibited at Park West Gallery
- All in the family
- Christmas Wonderfest brings holiday wonder to Novi