Just in time for Easter, the V&A has announced a major show of the world’s most famous and valuable Easter eggs: those created by the St Petersburg jeweller Carl Fabergé for the Russian royal family. The exhibition, ‘Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution’ will be the first time that three of his famous ‘Imperial Eggs’ will be seen in the UK, amid a wealth of other whimsical and costly objects created for his high-society clientele.
In 1885, Fabergé made a – frankly – novelty item for Tsar Alexander III: an enamelled gold egg that spilt into two halves to reveal a miniature hen inside. His client turned a blind eye to this pretty basic biological misrepresentation of poultry gestation and presented it to his wife for Easter, causing a sensation. Suddenly Fabergé was all the rage. The bling-merchant made many more Easter eggs for the Imperial family until 1917, when the bottom fell out of the market with the revolution and the execution in cellars of most of his Russian client base.
The V&A show will put on display more than 200 objects, and promises to tell a lot more of the Fabergé story. London was the only place to have a branch of the jeweller’s outside Russia, and his customers in the capital consisted of royalty, American magnates, exiled aristos, and basically anyone who could afford a lifestyle so opulent it makes 2 Chainz look Amish.
Even after the revolution, Fabergé continued to cater to these tastes, and his works acquired legendary status. His Easter eggs in particular are worth millions of dollars apiece, featuring in James Bond films, and as the Achilles heel of Lisa Simpson’s troubled saxophone mentor, ‘Bleeding Gums’ Murphy. As Russia has gone full circle in the last century, many of Fabergé’s most wealthy collectors are now once again from his homeland.
So, as you smear your £3 Smarties egg round your face this Easter weekend, put a reminder on your phone to celebrate the festival properly in November (ironically the month of the 1917 revolution – by our calendar at least), by visiting Carl’s collection of ovoid excess.
‘Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution’ is at the V&A, Nov 20-May 8 2022. Tickets available later this year. Check the V&A site2for updates.