Newsletter 2008 Fall

Fall 2008
Feature Story: The Big Surprise

The Big Surprise
by Christel Ludewig McCanles
Blue Serpent Egg (Photos © Christel McCanless)
Blue Serpent Egg (Photos © Christel McCanless)

Blue Serpent Egg
(Photos © Christel McCanless)

October 14, 2008: It is a summer-like day in New York City and I am walking along 5th Avenue to the Consulate General of Monaco. Finally, the day had arrived when the “Big Surprise” would no longer be a secret. Months before I had learned a Fabergé Egg, made in Russia before the turn of the 20th century, would be coming to American shores for an exhibition, and I had promised to keep a secret.

From the Lowes-McCanless, Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia I knew the egg was shown at the 1902 von Dervis exhibition in St. Petersburg, and then in 1953 and 1992 at Wartski in London. Between the two London exhibitions its whereabouts were somewhat mysterious.

In New York I was going to be present for the unveiling of the 1887 (Ed. Note: Later determined to be 1895) Imperial Blue Serpent Egg, given to the late Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1974 to honor his Silver Jubilee, the 25th anniversary of his accession to the Grimaldi throne. His son, Prince Albert II is sharing his family treasure with visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Art venue, Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique.

That October morning as the velvet drape dropped from the glass case someone behind me remarked, “It is so small!” The egg is 7¼ inches (18.3 cm) tall – the translucent royal blue enamel in contrast to the opalescent white enamel is stunning. The 1902 Duchess of Marlborough egg in the same style is 9¼ inches tall. The Honorable Consul General, Maguy Maccario-Doyle, summarized the historical happenings eloquently when she spoke of the “magic and mystery of the Fabergé Egg Clock.”

For Fabergé scholars new details have emerged about the history of the egg – Stephen Harrison, curator of the Cleveland Museum, discovered the Blue Serpent and the Danish Palaces Eggs were first shown at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, France. The Blue Serpent Egg belonged to Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos, before it became Princess Grace’s personal favorite and after her death was rarely shown to anyone by order of her husband, Prince Rainier.

My favorite moment came when the glass case was removed for a photo-op and I captured the two photos shown above … and best of all, I no longer have to keep the secret about the Imperial Blue Serpent Egg and I can share my joy of having seen it at the New York unveiling with other Fabergé enthusiasts. (To view the video of the unveiling ceremony, readers are advised to wait for the major event after two ads, or see the photos).

Congratulations to the staffs at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Consulate General of Monaco for hosting this historic Fabergé milestone event.

Fabergé Buddha sold for $2,487,931 (estimate $500,000 – 690,000) at the Christina Onassis Jewels Sale (Christie’s London, June 11, 2008) to Alexander Ivanov of the Russian National Museum, who previously acquired the Rothschild Fabergé Clock for $18.5 million.
Bukowskis, largest Swedish auction house has joined Sotheby’s by also opening an office in Moscow.

November 14, 2008 Heritage Auctions Dallas, (TX) Russian Fine & Decorative Art

November 21, 2008 Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bregade, Denmark Russian Art

November 23, 2008 Sinclair and Raye Heather Chen Russian Collection
Auction by Lyon & Turnbull, Scotland’s oldest auction house at the Caledonian Club, Belgravia, London, includes 25 Fabergé items, which were recently on display at the Forbes Galleries in New York City.

November 24, 2008 Sotheby’s London Imperial and Royal Presents
Includes Presents From HIH Maria Fedorovna, Empress of Russia to Her Sister HRH Thyra, Duchess of Cumberland, Princess of Denmark. (Illustrated above).

November 29, 2008 Auktionshaus Dr. Jürgen Fischer
Fabergé icon, Unexpected Joy, is on the market, last sold at auction in 1974. (Illustrated above). December 2-3, 2008 Jackson’s International Auctioneers and Appraisers, Cedar Falls, Iowa European & American Fine Art Including Russian Works
Fabergé cigarette cases ex-John Traina collection.

Source for “Out-of-Print” auction catalogs Jeffrey Eger Auction Catalogues

(Updates are posted in Exhibitions on the Fabergé Research Site)
October 17, 2008 Queen’s Gallery, London
Fabergé exhibition reopened and is being extended until Spring 2009.

October 19, 2008 – January 19, 2006 Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique moves to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, February 7 – May 31, 2009. A comprehensive guest lecture, film and education program has been planned to accompany the Cleveland exhibition, and the inauguration of the new Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall.

November 1, 2008 – April 15, 2009 Union Station, Kansas City, MO
The Tsar and the President (Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln).
Historical exhibition presenting the little known story of the link between these two leaders. Curator: Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey.
The exhibition is organized by the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation and includes loans from the State Historical Museum, Moscow, the State Museum-Preserve, Tsarskoye Selo and the State Archive of the Russian Federation as well as the Library of Congress, the National Park Service and Ford’s Theatre.

November 9, 2008 – January 18, 2009 New Orleans Museum of Art
Objects of Desire: Fabergé from the Hodges Family Collection

Dr. D. Lee Hodges, an enthusiastic Fabergé collector, and his family are lending over 100 pieces to the museum. Highlights with historical significance include the Bismarck Box given to the Chancellor of Germany in 1884, a photograph frame with a portrait of Nicholas II purchased from the St. Petersburg shop in 1906 by his mother, Marie Feodorovna, a Nobel brooch (illustrated below), and a serpent about to strike on a piece of Persian turquoise. More details: Arts Quarterly, October, November, December 2008, 1, 6-8.

December 3, 2008 Informal gallery tour of the Hodges exhibition with John W. Keefe, curator of the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Nobel Pin (Courtesy NOMA)
Nobel Pin
(Courtesy NOMA)

December 10, 2008 to March 29, 2009
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is holding an exhibition, Magnificence of the Tsars, and will display the elaborate uniforms of the Russian court from 1720 to the early 20th century.

General News
In September 2008, Aurora Fine Art Investments, Russia’s only art-investment fund, will begin divesting itself of some of its holdings, including Fabergé, in an appointment only showroom in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Details of this venture are in an interview with André Ruzhnikov, a representative of the firm. (Art & Auction, Annual Investment Issue 2008: A Special Guide for Collectors, 51-52). Article states the John Traina cigarette case collection is now part of this fund.

Kamidian lawsuit is discussed in the Daily Telegraph (London), June 28, 2008, “Art Dealer Finds His Fabergé Is a Fake”.
High Court ruled Fabergé egg is a fake. The judge’s comments came at the end of a long-running trial during which the owner of the so-called “Dr. Metzger Egg Clock”, Mr. Michel Kamidian, sought millions of pounds of compensation for the damage done to his treasure while it was being shipped to an exhibition in America in 2001 (England and Wales High Court, Commercial Court, Decisions).

On September 25, 2008, two Fabergé objects were withdrawn from a Lauritz Christensen Auction due to authenticity issues with the consigned lots.

The Code, a movie with Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman in which they play artful jewelry thieves. Their aim is to steal Fabergé eggs owned by a New York collector of Russian origin. Opens November 9, 2008, in American theaters.

Kristen Regina and Pat Lynagh, librarians at the Art Research Library of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, have compiled a brochure describing the unique holdings of the library. They invite researchers to use the Russian art and European decorative arts library collection by appointment.

October 1, 2008. Russian Court Rehabilitates Last Czar.

Faber, Toby. Fabergé’s Eggs: The Extra-Ordinary Story of the Masterpieces that Outlived an Empire, American edition October 2008.
His story tongue-in cheek story about wanting to touch a Fabergé egg appeared in Daily Mail (London), Weekend Section, 17. Harrison, Stephen, “The Case of the Fabergé Tiara”, Cleveland Art, September 2008, 4-5. To bring a jeweled treasure to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the intrepid curator steps boldly into the world of foreign intrigue.

Harrison, Stephen, “Artistic Luxury at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris”, Magazine Antiques, October 2008, 130 – 138.

Harrison, Stephen, Emanuel Ducamp, and Jeannine Falino. Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique. Cleveland Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2008.

Gerard Hill, et al. Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths, 1989. A reprint edition announced for September 2008 by Universe Publishing, a division of Rizzoli International.

Olga: The Last Grand Duchess (DVD in NTSC format only) tells the story of Olga Alexandrova, sister of Russia’s last tsar. Available from Gilbert’s Royal Books.

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington (DC) and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg now have their Fabergé objects on line.

Imperial and Royal Presents (Courtesy Sotheby's)
Imperial and Royal Presents
(Courtesy Sotheby’s)
Fabergé Icon (Auktionshaus Fischer)
Fabergé Icon
(Auktionshaus Fischer)

Readers Forum
What is the best source for learning about the inventory numbers scratched on some Fabergé objects? The reader understands the hallmarking and marking system on the pieces.

Collector is interested in knowing more about Fabergé thimbles.

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