VISUAL ARTS + MUSEUMS
Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars
November 13, 2009 - July 25, 2010
The Houston Museum of Natural Science presents Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars, November 13, 2009 -
April 4, 2010. EXTENDED through July 25, 2010.
Discover the spectacular designs of Carl Fabergé, a master goldsmith and legendary jeweler who is still celebrated for his inventive design and meticulous craftsmanship. Perhaps best known for the Imperial Easter Eggs created for the Russian Royal family, the House of Fabergé also fashioned jewelry and luxurious gifts for many ruling families of Europe as well as other wealthy patrons.
Marvel at exquisite objects produced by the Fabergé workshop at its peak, including personal gifts to the Tsar and Tsarina, an extravagant tiara, magnificent "fire-screen" picture frame, and the famed Nobel Ice Egg, a stunning piece that is one of the few Imperial-styled eggs in private hands. From elegantly simple to breathtakingly ornate, the jewelry, clocks, picture frames, boxes and eggs in this collection were thoughtfully selected to exemplify extraordinary materials and workmanship.
In recent years, the McFerrin Collection has become one of the world's most important private collections of Fabergé. While many of the pieces in this collection have been featured individually in other exhibitions and publications over the past 60 years, this event marks the first time that the McFerrin Collection has been presented for public display.
Carl Fabergé, a master goldsmith and legendary jeweler, is still celebrated for his inventive design and meticulous craftsmanship. Learn more about his innovative techniques below – and then see the results of his originality in the exhibition.
Fabergé was extremely innovative in his use of enameling. Enamel is created by heating a precise mixture of powdered glass and metal oxides at extremely high, but carefully controlled, temperatures. Each layer of enamel is heated at a lower temperature than the coat below it to ensure that previously applied layers do not melt. Up to seven coats are applied and fired at up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Each different color requires its own precise temperature.
* While most shops limited themselves to a few standard colors, Fabergé created 140 hues of enamel – many of which have never been duplicated.
* Fabergé pioneered the design for the modern cigarette case. Cigarette smoking had begun to increase in popularity around the same time as the peak of his productivity, and thus, cigarette cases were among the more commonly produced items by the House of Fabergé.
Though Fabergé produces hundreds of elaborate, jeweled frames for the royal family to give as gifts, they preferred simpler, elegant wooden frames for the gifts they exchanged within the family.
* Though he is most famous for the Imperial Easter eggs he created for the Russian royal family out of enamel and precious stones and metals, some of Fabergé's earliest works are animals, folkloric characters, and flower "still-lifes" carved in traditional Russian "hardstones."
* Easter is the highest holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church, and in the tradition of that faith, gifts are exchanged at Easter much as they are at Christmas. The egg, being a symbol of new life and renewal, had always been a popular form for Easter gifts—celebrating the beginning of spring at the end of a harsh Russian winter.
The Nobel "Ice Egg" on display in the exhibition was inspired by the patterns made by frost on a windowpane – despite the fact that natural themes were highly unusual in Russia at that time. Designers of the period—including those at Fabergé—traditionally reinterpreted historic styles rather than creating new ones inspired by the natural world.
Pictured: Fire Screen Picture Frame.