History of the collection

Jewelry art probably suffered more significant damage during the time of massive sales of cultural heritage by the Soviet government in the 1920-1930s than any other field of art. The acute shortage of funds faced by the young Soviet power gave birth to the idea of solving financial problems at the expense of cultural valuables, which led to a gaping lacunae in the history of art in general and of Russian jewelry art in particular. The Russian jewelry industry was unparalleled in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century. Advances in production, as well as increased demand for valuables, led to the creation of true masterpieces in the jewelry field. Ten to twenty years later, the jewels were barbarically ripped out of these works of art. In the best cases, these invaluable monuments of art were sold abroad. The famous Easter eggs made by the House of Fabergé — one of the most outstanding examples of Russian jewelry art — were among the masterpieces made with precious stones and metals that were stolen from national treasuries and museums.

The Fabergé phenomenon interests people to this day. The jewelry company established by Carl Fabergé in St. Petersburg in the last quarter of the 19th century had a well-established structure and huge creative potential. The firm very quickly won worldwide recognition. The Fabergé style is inextricably linked with the aesthetics of historicism. The great jeweler formed his artistic tastes in the second half of the 19th century, when the trend was to pay special attention to the cultural heritage of previous eras. Carl Fabergé, being a dedicated fan of classic styles, was no exception. A perfect example is his Cockerel Egg, one of the centerpieces of the museum’s collection. The egg was given by Tsar Nicholas II as an Easter gift to his mother, the Empress Maria Fyodoronova, in 1900, and became a kind of tribute to the outgoing 19th century. Fabergé intricately mixed historical styles when designing the egg, creating a combination which was surprisingly harmoniously and simultaneously colorful, decorative and elegant in a Russian way. The unexpected juxtaposition of baroque plasticity, the graphic style of Louis XVI, and oriental motifs made the Cockerel Egg practically the benchmark work of art of the era of Historicism.

The House of Fabergé created goods of all different denominations, from relatively simple products to very unique works of art. The best pieces, of course, were the items made to order for rulers and the aristocracy, but this connection with the imperial house and the high society of pre-revolutionary Russia subsequently played a fatal role for the House of Fabergé’s heritage. In the 1920-1930's, during the mass sale of property and masterpieces from museums confiscated by the Soviet government, a huge number of works with the Fabergé brand were either destroyed or sold abroad. This is why the most significant collection of works by the famous St. Petersburg jewelry house was started outside Russia.

In 1960, the American media magnate Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) purchased a gold Fabergé cigarette case at an antique gallery. Forbes was a passionate collector of Fabergé rarities over the next thirty years, amassing a collection of more than three hundred Fabergé pieces. But following his death, his unique collection started to be sold off. First single pieces began to appear at auctions, but then the whole Forbes collection was put on sale by his heirs in February 2004. The integrity of this unique art was saved only by the Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who completely bought out the Forbes collection, thereby re-filling a once-devastated niche in the cultural heritage of Russia.

Mr. Vekselberg established the Link of Times Foundation, which today possesses the Fabergé collection. This collection is unique in its size, typological and stylistic diversity, and is noteworthy for the highest level of mastery of its works, many of which have memorial significance. The core of the collection are the Easter eggs created by the orders of the Russian Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) for his wife Maria Fyodorovna and his son, and by his successor, Nicholas II (1868-1918), for his mother and for his wife - the last Russian Empress, Alexandra Fyodorovna, the fourth daughter of Louis IV, Grande Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The longtime Christian custom of giving dyed and painted Easter eggs became a real industry in the second half of the 19th century in Russia. Luxurious eggs made from porcelain, glass, semi-precious stones, and precious metals became real works of art. Fabergé Easter eggs, which were unparalleled in the originality of their ideas and craftsmanship, were the highest achievement of this genre.


The first Fabergé egg – the Hen Egg – was given by Tsar Alexander III to his wife Maria Fyodorovna on Easter, 1885, and the egg made such a good impression on the Empress that Fabergé received the title of Supplier to the Court of His Imperial Majesty in the same year. From this point on Fabergé would get an Easter egg order yearly from the royal family. Fabergé would hand over the precious souvenirs to the Russian Emperor on Friday of Holy Week for more than thirty years. Each subsequent egg was different from the previous one. It was difficult to create a new Easter gift each year, endlessly playing with the same egg shape. Nevertheless, the House of Fabergé fulfilled its task with honor. Once, thanking her son Nicky for another “wonderful egg” by Fabergé, the Empress Maria Fyodorovna enthusiastically exclaimed: “Fabergé is just amazing. He’s a genius and the greatest artist of our time.”

The Fabergé House created fifty Easter eggs for the Imperial family from 1885 to 1916. Eight of these disappeared without a trace in the tumultuous 1920s-1930s. The remaining 42 were scattered around public and private collections around the world. Today, nine of the Fabergé eggs belong to the Link of Times Foundation. This collection is the second-largest Fabergé egg collection in the world. The Kremlin Armory collection in Moscow has just one more egg than the Link of Times collection.

The Link of Times collection is unique in the sense that it contains milestone works in the development of Fabergé craftsmanship. The collection includes the Hen Egg (1885) – the very first Fabergé egg in the Emperor’s Easter suite, as well as the Rosebud Egg (1895) – the first Easter souvenir given by Nicholas II to his wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna. The exceptional Renaissance Egg (1894) is significant for the fact that it was the last egg given by Tsar Alexander III to his wife Maria Fyodorovna, 8 months before the Tsar’s death. The Order of St. George Egg (1916) was the last Easter gift given by Nicholas II to his mother, and the only egg that Maria Fyodorovna took out of revolutionary Russia in 1919. The Imperial Coronation Egg is one of the most famous Fabergé eggs. It was given by Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna in 1897, to commemorate the Coronation celebrations held in Moscow a year earlier. Fitted inside a velvet-lined compartment is a precise replica of the golden Imperial coach that carried the Empress Alexandra to her coronation at Moscow's Uspensky Cathedral.

Besides Easter eggs of the Imperial series, the Link of Times collection also includes three Fabergé eggs made for the Duchess of Marlborough (nee Consuelo Vanderbilt, granddaughter of the American railroad magnate) and the Russian merchant wife Varvara Kelkh. That said, the Link of Times collection is not limited to Easter gifts. The House of Fabergé also made cigarette cases, jewelry, precious haberdashery, stationery, presentation works with imperial symbols, etc. Examples of these works can be seen at the Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg. Most of them are commemorative items belonging to members of the Russian Imperial family, such as a lorgnette belonging to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, a cork cigarette case with a presentation inscription of the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna given to her spouse, the Emperor Nicholas II, and a clock with a crystal globe from the Imperial property.

Many of the artworks exhibited at the Fabergé Museum have the seals of Michael Perkhin – the most famous master to work with Carl Fabergé. One can get an idea of his work both from Easter eggs, of which he was the constant creator until his death in 1903, and from other masterpieces of the Link of Times collection. Examples include a unique photo frame with rhinestone inserts owned by the dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, and a leather folder given to the Imperial family by representatives of St. Petersburg on the occasion of the return of Nicholas II and Alexandra to the capital after their coronation.

Fabergé’s artwork has long been one of the most recognizable and vivid symbols of Russia. Thus all the more important is the homecoming of such a significant part of his legacy. This is truly an incredibly romantic ending to one of the most fascinating stories in the history of art.

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