A veritable zoo of Faberge animal sculptures will be on display at the Walters Art Museum beginning February 13, 2003. The Faberge Menagerie will feature more than 100 works created by the firm of Carl Faberge, the St. Petersburg-born goldsmith who produced spectacular Easter eggs and other objects for the Russian imperial court and other elite clients across Europe and America. On display until July 27, 2003, the Walters exhibition will be the first ever to focus primarily on the enchanting animal sculptures carved from richly colored stones like nephrite, amethyst, jasper, and lapis lazuli. The House of Faberge carved hundreds of these tiny animals, and the exhibition will include pink-quartz piglets, a rock crystal polar bear with ruby eyes, a petrified-wood chimpanzee, an amethyst rabbit, and many, many more charming creatures.
This exhibition is organized by the Walters Art Museum in collaboration with the Faberge Arts Foundation and sponsored by the law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
About the Exhibition
When, in the summer of 1900, Henry Walters visited St. Petersburg with family and friends, a highlight of the trip was a stop at 24 Bolshaya Morskaya, the newly opened headquarters of the House of Faberge. On that visit, Walters became one of the first American collectors of Faberge’s animal creations. The Faberge Menagerie will bring together several works Walters purchased that summer, including a jasper anteater, an agate chimpanzee, and a green nephrite hippopotamus, with pieces on loan from the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Forbes Magazine, and other important collections.
The exhibition will begin with examples of Faberge’s predecessors, including several pieces of 18th-century Russian stone work from the Walters collection and two major paintings from the 1870s by the Russian artist Ivan Shishkin. The paintings, both landscapes of the Urals, are on loan from A La Vieille Russie in New York.
Also on display will be source materials that will help create a picture of the artistic context in which Faberge designed his animal sculptures. Here will be the Walters’ Dinglinger Cup, the only major example of a Dinglinger piece in the United States. Johann Melchoir Dinglinger (1664-1731), a goldsmith for Augustus the Strong of Saxony, produced many figurative works, which were housed in the Grunes Gewolbe (Green Vaults) in Dresden. Carl Faberge studied Dinglinger’s work, and the Baroque jeweler’s influence is apparent. Also on view in this section will be many examples of Japanese netsuke, the tiny animal carvings used by the Japanese as belt toggles. Carl Faberge owned more than 500 netsuke, and many of his animal carvings were inspired by these charming works. Finally, this section will feature four imperial Easter eggs, including the Walters’ Gatchina Palace Egg, as well as the bell pushes, parasol handles, and cigarette cases for which Faberge is renowned.
Following will be the animal carvings themselves: There will be domesticated animals like dogs, cats, lambs, and pigs; familiar creatures such as rabbits, mice, and bears; exotic animals-camels, rhinos, hippos-which 19th-century European society would have known by its zoos; and insects, including a beautiful Siberian cicada crafted from nephrite and a delicate Ladybug box of gold, enamel, and diamonds.
Visitors will notice the large number of elephant carvings-a total of 13 in the exhibition. Faberge had a great interest in crafting elephants: The Russian Czar Alexander III (who himself owned an elephant) was married to a Danish princess, and the Danish Royal Family had an elephant on its seal.
The animals on display in The Faberge Menagerie range from the highly stylized, inspired by the Japanese netsuke, to the extraordinarily realistic, to the humorous and whimsical. All demonstrate Faberge’s mastery at turning utilitarian objects into works of art that would become some of his most beloved treasures.
copyright © 2001 The Walters Art Museum | All rights reserved