MTL Culture: Imperial Fabergé

Fabergé Worshop, Henri Wigström (workmaster) - Imperial Cesarevich Easter Egg, 1912 The Golden Mile’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts c...

Fabergé Worshop, Henri Wigström (workmaster) - Imperial Cesarevich Easter Egg, 1912

The Golden Mile’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can boast the highest attendance rate among Canadian museums (over 1 million visitors in 2013), thanks in no small part to its 40,000+ works, and its broad-interest temporary exhibitions of international scope, many of which circulate across Europe and North America.

A Canadian first and exclusive, one such exhibit takes us into the world of the Russian jewellery house founded by Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), and a select collection of 240 pieces, and precious objects produced by the house for Czars Alexander lll and Nicholas ll.  


By way of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, the enamelled picture frames, gold jewellery encrusted with precious stones, miniature hardstone animals, and rock-crystal flower vases comprise the finest collection of Fabergé outside of Russia.

Fabergé Workshop, Erik Kollin & Feodor Afanasev (workmasters) -
Miniature Easter Egg Pendant, about 1900 and before 1899

Ivan Khlebnikov - Sherbet Cup, Saucer, and Spoon, 1908-1917

Included in the exhibit are the pieces most of us are familiar with: the famous Easter eggs. Fascinating achievements of decorative art and craftsmanship, these were forged in precious metals and inlaid with jewels, each one concealing a surprise inside, usually a framed portrait. Commissioned by the Romanovs, and offered as gifts from the Czar to a family member, there are only 43 still in existence, with 4 of them making the trip to Montreal.

Fabergé Workshop, Mikhail Perkhin (workmaster), miniature: Johannes Zehngraf - Imperial Pelican Easter Egg, 1898

Fabergé Workshop, Mikhail Perkhin (workmaster) - Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg, 1903  

Fabergé Workshop, Moscow - Rabbit Pitcher, before 1899

Fabergé Workshop, Moscow - Brave Knights Kovsh, 1899-1908

The flow is engaging, and seamlessly takes us from the life-renewing significance of the egg throughout history and in the Russian Orthodox tradition, to Fabergé’s rise, along with Cartier in Paris, as among the world’s most elegant and luxurious jewellery houses.

Fabergé Workshop, Henrik Wigstrom (workmaster) - Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Imperial Portraits, 1915

As far as takeaway for the public, there’s a lot at play so we highly recommend a visit. It’s a snapshot of the decorative arts of the period, and conveys a tone that is at once grand and personal. We see a relationship (and fate) inextricably linked to the lives of the Imperial family, one which followed their prominence, but also their downfall.

Fabergé Workshop, Saint Petersburg, Mikhail Perkhin (workmaster) - Star Frame
Photo: Grand Duchess Tatianna Nikolaevna, before 1899

In 1917, the Russian Revolution put an abrupt end to the reign of the Romanovs, and the storied jeweller along with them. The Bolsheviks seized Fabergé’s workshops and all the treasures they contained. Production came to an end, and Fabergé and his family fled the country. Sadly the name would not continue on, for in 1951 a legal decision deprived the family of the right to produce and market objects under the Fabergé trademark.

Fabergé Workshop - Christ Pantocrator, 1914-1917

Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars
A Canadian Exclusive
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Until October 5th, 2014

1380, Sherbrooke West
(514) 285-2000


Photo Credit: Guillaume Sans


Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 16082260060061704

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