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Carl Fabergé (1846-1920)

Peter Carl Fabergé was the greatest Russian goldsmith and jeweller of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  He was head of the House of Fabergé from 1872 until his death in 1920.

Under his direction, the firm produced some of the most famous pieces now in the Royal Collection, including three Imperial Easter Eggs made for the Russian royal family.  He also supervised the creation of hundreds of other works, including exquisite cigarette cases, carved flowers, desk equipment, animal sculptures and photograph frames.

Having taken over his father's jewellery business in 1872, it was Peter Carl who established the firm's international reputation.  As early as 1881, he won the attention of the Tsarina, Marie Feodorovna, who introduced his work to her sister and brother-in-law – Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII.  Between them, the British and Russian royal families would prove some of his most enthusiastic patrons.  'Fabergé is the greatest genius of our time', wrote the Tsarina to her sister in 1914.  Although Queen Alexandra frequently expressed a desire to meet Fabergé in person, he preferred to work through his London representative H.C. Bainbridge, and they never met.

Under Carl Fabergé, the business was organised into several separate workshops, each with its own workmaster. The best might be promoted to the position of head workmaster – a post held by Erik Kollin (1872-1886), Michael Perchin (1886-1903) and Henry Wigström (1903-1917).  These individuals collaborated with Fabergé on designs and were allowed to mark products with their own initials.  All are represented in the Royal Collection.  Works made by Carl Fabergé himself are more difficult to identify, but he would certainly have been closely involved in the production of the most important commissions, such as the Imperial Easter Eggs, and also more complex objects like flowers.

Carl Fabergé was born in St Petersburg on 30 May 1846, the son of a master goldsmith. As a young man he served apprenticeships in Frankfurt, Florence and Paris, as well as volunteering at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. He won numerous awards throughout his life, including a gold medal at the 1882 Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow and the Grand Prix at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, he was forced to close his St Petersburg headquarters and emigrate to Switzerland, where he died on 24 September 1920.

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Objects associated with Carl Fabergé (1846-1920)