by Maria Koby
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhibiting Faberge from the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection.
The exhibit features the Lilies-of-the-Valley Basket – the most important Faberge work in a U.S. Collection and three magnificent Imperial Easter Eggs commissioned by and created for the Romanov family. The three of the fifty Imperial Easter Eggs initially were commissioned by Czar Alexander III for his wife, Maria Feodorovna, and then by his son and their heir, Czar Nicholas II for his mother and his wife. The creation of each Imperial Egg involved painstaking design, engraving and polishing, sometimes taking more than a year to complete. Each egg opens to reveal a surprise folding ten-panel screen that bears miniatures filled with diamonds, pearls and other gems. The Lilies-of-the-Valley Basket, considered to be Fabergé’s floral masterpiece. Made in 1896, it was originally presented to Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna and consists of nineteen individual stems emerging from nine separate plants in a “moss” of spun, fused, clipped, and polished green and yellow gold. Each pearl blossom is edged in silver set with rose-cut diamonds, with realistic leaves made of hard, dense nephrite and carved with the striations characteristic of the lily-of-the-valley plant. The czarina adored the Lilies-of- the-Valley Basket, as the blossoms were among her favorite flowers, and pearls her favorite jewels. She kept it on view in the private apartments and often took it with her when traveling.These iconic works form the House of Faberge have not been on public view in New York since 2004.
The House of Faberge, founded by the creator jeweler Peter Carl Faberge in 1870 became the largest jewelry enterprise in Russia until the Russian Revolution in 1918.
Gene Shapiro’s Auction House has a small number of fine Faberge works available.