A Significant New Exhibition: Fabergé Revealed at the Bellagio Gallery Of Fine Art


If you ask many people what first comes to mind when the word Russia is introduced, some don’t immediately think of the Kremlin, Putin, the Kirov Ballet, Stolichnaya Vodka or Doctor Zhivago. However, many think of the iconic Fabergé egg.

A sense of great beauty coupled with a sense of poignancy surrounds these eggs, artistic masterworks and fragile mementos, an aristocratic monarchy swept away by the Russian Revolution of 1917. These Imperial Easter eggs were given by the royal Romanoff family to each other during the holiday from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Considered by some as giddy indulgences, they are seen by most as dazzling works of artistic craftsmanship. And they, along with other exceptional works by Fabergé, are rarely seen outside Russia. Until now.

Photo Credit: Katherine Wetzel, VMFA

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas recently announced a new, significant exhibition debuting November 14, 2014. It is entitled Fabergé Revealed, and is organized in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. This exhibition showcases 238 rare Fabergé artifacts, not only many of the world-famous eggs, but jewelry, miniature jeweled religious artwork, cane and parasol handles, presentation boxes, snuff boxes and more.

Photo Credit: Travis Fullerton, VMFA

Unique to this exhibition is a small collection of Fauxbergé objects, look-alikes once believed to be originals. This is part of the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia. “These treasured objects encompass the beauty of art while also telling one of the most powerful stories in history – the fall of the Russian imperial family,” said BGFA Executive Director Tarissa Tiberti. “Fabergé Revealed highlights each distinct styles displayed in the original House of Fabergé stores in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and London. And these Fabergé eggs, especially, if you look at them closely, they are stories within stories. On the outside is an exterior design, a story, and when the egg opens, there is an interior one. There has been nothing like them before or since, and we are thrilled to share with others.”

Photo Credit: Katherine Wetzel, VMFA

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the House of Fabergé produced more than 150,000 objects of art, jewels and silver articles—many of which were one-of-a-kind with detailed design and artistry. Fabergé Revealed features signature pieces from Fabergé’s original collection, including the Imperial Pelican Easter Egg (1897). The Emperor Nicholas II gave this egg to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna for Easter in 1898. In the Empire Style, it is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of charitable institutions by the Patroness Empress Maria Fedorovna. A gold pelican surmounts the egg, its body enameled white, with outstretched diamond-set wings protecting its young. The pelican is the historic symbol of self-sacrifice, while its young in this case represent the daughters of the aristocracy.

Unlike other Fabergé eggs, this one does not contain an interior surprise, as the Pelican Egg itself is the surprise. The egg unfolds to reveal eight gold frames each containing a miniature. The miniatures, which depict educational establishments in Saint Petersburg, are each surrounded by seed pearls. The egg rests on a stand of red, yellow and green gold decorated with the crowned heads of eagles.

Photo Credit: Katherine Wetzel, VMFA

Another is the Peter The Great Egg. The Emperor Nicholas II gave this egg to his wife, the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna for Easter 1903. It commemorates the 200th anniversary of the founding of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great. Its body of varicolored gold is in the rococo-revival style and is rich in symbolism. In Russia, roses and laurel leaves represent triumph and pride. While the portrait of Nicholas II appears on one side of the egg, Peter the Great’s portrait appears on the opposite side.

Two more eggs were planned for Easter 1918, but were not delivered, due to the coming of the Russian Revolution. After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks nationalized the House of Fabergé, and the Fabergé family fled to Switzerland where Peter Carl Fabergé died in 1920.The Imperial Family's palaces were ransacked and their treasures, including the eggs, moved to the Kremlin Armory on order of Vladimir Lenin.

Photo Credit: Travis Fullerton, VMFA

Over time, the Fabergé trademark has since been sold several times and several companies have retailed egg-related merchandise using the Fabergé name. The trademark is now owned by Fabergé Limited which makes egg-themed jewelry.

The significance of this major exhibition is defined by its title, Fabergé Revealed. What is revealed is not only a remembered beauty of the early Fabergé method, it also reveals a time in Russian history that was glamorous, elite, excessive, aristocratic and doomed given the social upheaval clamoring outside the palace walls. Yet, this time in history is revealed so well through the art seen and pondered in this extensive exhibit. Not only is Fabergé revealed, but so is Russian history.