Magazine article Russian Life

Faberge: A Life of Its Own

Magazine article Russian Life

Faberge: A Life of Its Own

Article excerpt


Arts Alliance (In theaters June 29)

It is nice to come across a documentary about Russia that is not all Sturm und Drang, Stalin and Purges, mafia and Putin. Yes, those negative aspects are an important part of Russian reality, but history is long and it has many stories to tell, far from all of them depressing.

The story of Peter Carl Faberge and the jewelry empire he built is a truly remarkable story, and it is the focus of this new documentary from Arts Alliance. It is a lushly crafted, beautifully filmed documentary, full of glowing images of St. Petersburg and soaring Russian overtures. And it nicely weaves the arc of Faberge's tale into the broader context of the momentous Russian events of the 1880s-1920s.

The Faberge story is one of commercial success and imperial excess, of an art restorer who went on to create a jewelry powerhouse in St. Petersburg, catering to the rich and famous, and especially to the Russian court.

Trained in Dresden and apprenticed in St. Petersburg, Carl Faberge came to the attention of the imperial court in the 1880s and soon his workshop was making gifts and trinkets for those in the highest orbits of court life, satisfying the needs of a high society where, as one expert notes, "Faberge gifts were extremely emotional. It was all about the extraordinary ..."

The first Faberge Easter Egg was crafted in 1887, and some 50 would follow, including an unfinished one from 1917 (the Pearl Egg) that was only recently discovered for what it was in a Moscow mineral museum.

Its workshop shuttered in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Faberge family was forced to flee to Lausanne, Switzerland, where Carl died just a few years later. A worker looking at the closed St. Petersburg workshop that had once housed hundreds of the world's finest craftsmen, remarked that "it was as though we had lost a dearly loved relative."

Ironically, it was the forced emigration of Faberge, the murder of the tsarist family, and the dire straits of Russian nobility in Paris (forced to sell off their precious snuff boxes and jewels) that brought the workshop's art to the attention of a wider audience. …

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