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Press release


Release date: Friday, 31 January 2003

The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

11 April - 12 October 2003

The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
21 November 2003 - 7 March 2004

The Royal collection of works by Fabergé, the greatest Russian jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is unparalleled in size, range and quality.  It was acquired almost exclusively through the exchange of personal gifts between the Russian, Danish and British royal families.  This exhibition, which incorporates the results of extensive new research in Russian archives, charts the royal passion for Fabergé through over 300 of his finest pieces.

Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920) followed in the footsteps of his father Gustav, who was a goldsmith and jeweller of Huguenot origin.  After a four-year apprenticeship in Frankfurt, Florence and Paris, he entered the family firm in St Petersburg in 1865.  In 1872 Carl took over the business, which under his direction grew from a traditional and modest goldsmiths into an international enterprise of some 500 staff at its height.  In 1885 Fabergé was appointed Supplier to the Imperial Court by Tsar Alexander III of Russia, and the success of his business became inextricably linked to the patronage of the Romanov Dynasty.

Fabergé revived traditional techniques of enamelling, multi-coloured gold decoration and the use of carved semi-precious hardstones, but applied them with unsurpassed skill and great originality.  He sought inspiration in many sources, from antiquity, Oriental art and  the Louis XV period to the contemporary Art Nouveau movement and the Pan-Slavic (Old Russian) tradition.  The assimilation of these disparate styles using raw materials of supreme quality and craftsmanship of the highest standard gives Fabergé's work its unique character.  The vast majority of his designs were never repeated and most pieces were entirely made by hand.

Fabergé's influence outside Russia was due in no small part to the patronage of the British royal family.  The Danish Princess Alexandra, future consort of King Edward VII, was probably introduced to his work by her sister Princess Dagmar, who became Tsarina Marie Feodorovna, consort of Tsar Alexander III.  King Edward VII shared his wife's enthusiasm.  On a visit to St Petersburg, their son, George, Duke of York (later King George V) described the contents of his mother's apartments: 'Motherdear's birthday ... Saw  all  the presents,  she  has got half Fabergé's shop'.  Their taste was not for the most opulent of Fabergé's productions, but for the deceptively simple wild flower ornaments and for animal sculptures, modelled from life at the Sandringham Estate farm.

King George V and Queen Mary were responsible for a number of important acquisitions in the Royal Collection, including four Fabergé Easter Eggs, three of which are of Imperial provenance.  These are perhaps the greatest expression of Fabergé's ingenuity and technical ability.  Their design was usually a collaborative effort, involving draughtsmen, stone carvers, gem cutters and setters, goldsmiths, enamellers, engravers, polishers and miniaturists.  The complex year-long production was carried out in great secrecy and, after delivery, the eggs were seldom seen by anyone outside the Tsar's family.  Most  contain  a  'surprise'  of  some  kind,  opening  to  reveal  a  miniature model or memento.

Fabergé could turn even the most routine object, such as a photograph frame, bell push or paperknife, into a miniature work of art.  These everyday items are among the most elaborate and charming of his works.  Elegant desk accessories, owned and used by members of the Royal family, are particularly well represented in the Royal Collection and many still contain their original notebooks, pencils and photographs.

Fabergé had a wide-ranging influence over his contemporaries in Russia and Europe, and many sought to emulate him.  He was not the only goldsmith and jeweller patronised by the Royal and Imperial courts, and the exhibition includes pieces from the Royal Collection by his competitors and imitators, including Cartier and Boucheron.

The royal fascination for Fabergé has continued into more recent times.  Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother formed her own notable collection of flower ornaments, bibelots, boxes and photograph frames, examples of which are included in the exhibition.

Exhibition catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by Fabergé in the Royal Collection (The Royal Collection), a 240-page catalogue with over 220 illustrations, £35.00 (hardback) £22.50 (softback).

Further information and photographs are available from Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, telephone: 020-7839 1377, e-mail:[email protected].

Admission details for The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse
09:30-18:00 every day (last admission 17:15). Entry by timed ticket.
Adult £4.00,  Over 60/Student  £3.00,  Under 17  £2.00,  Family (2 adults and 3 under 17s)  £10.00,  Under 5  Free.

Advance tickets from or 0131 556 5100.
On-the-day tickets from The Queen's Gallery, subject to availability.

Admission details for The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace 
10:00-17:30  every day (last admission 16:30)  Entry by timed ticket  (also includes admission to Royal Treasures).
Adult  £6.50, Over 60/Student  £5.00, Under 17  £3.00, Family (2 adults & 3 under 17s)  £16.00, Under 5 Free.

Advance tickets from or 020 7321 2233.
On-the-day tickets from The Queen's Gallery, subject to availability.