In fact, the range of objects from the decorative arts creator is abundantly clear in the
"Faberge didn't only make eggs," says a cheerful
Some 240 objects, including four of the remaining 43 famous Easter eggs commissioned by
There are even a few of the notorious "Fauxberge" knockoffs which have flooded the western world's art market since the 1930s. Look closely, however, and it can be seen that the high quality of the fake doesn't match the stratospheric standard of the original.
The new show is the result of co-operation with the
That show is on tour in
"It's a coup because this is going to be the only venue in
Carl Faberge was born in 1846 of a Huguenot family that fled Louis XIV's
Multi-talented and imaginative, Faberge was also a savvy businessman and eventually became the jeweller and goldsmith for
His name soon spread worldwide, expanding his clientele beyond the Russian nobility to include aristocracy in other countries such as the Queen of
"He was a man of his time," Charbonneau said. "His style was more in the neo styles that he had learned but he was totally contemporary."
She said, for instance, that Faberge began offering more frames at a time when amateur photography was on the rise and people were looking for eye-catching ways to display their pictures.
The artifacts in the show are spread across four rooms, each with a theme that takes the visitor through Faberge's history and his links to the Russian royalty, which was eventually wiped out in the 1917 revolution.
Each room has an egg as its focal point. Other artifacts include enamelled picture frames, gold jewelry decorated with precious stones, miniature hardstone animals, rock-crystal vases, silverware and icons.
They all display a stunning level of detail, whether it's the delicacy of a flower's stems, the fine accents of hair-thin gold wound onto other objects or the sculpt marks indicating the layers of fur on an alert-looking silver rabbit.
One stunning item is a tiny terrestrial globe sitting in a gold cradle. Despite its diminutive size, the outlines of the world's countries are painstakingly etched into the globe's rock-crystal surface.
The themes examine the Easter egg in Orthodox tradition, the empire of the czars, the workshops and showrooms of the
"It works quite well because every single object or single room has a different atmosphere," Charbonneau said.
For instance, the room invoking the building of the empire has large silhouette paintings on wintery white walls of Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great and Peter the Great as well as the imposing double eagle insignia of the empire.
Another, which Charbonneau called "the boutique," gives visitors a sense of the Faberge workshops, with tables in similar shapes as his craftsmen's work benches and lighting that resembles the lamps that hung over them.
"You're really into his favourite materials, which is heartstones or the enamels used for frames, for cane handles," Charbonneau said of the delicate objects on display there.
"We try, with all the different objects...to present them at their best and create a story around who is Faberge and to show that Faberge didn't only make eggs."
The last room conjures up the royal palace, with the state of the empire juxtaposed between idyllic scenes of the Romanovs at play and images from
The fall of the czar in 1917 sparked another chapter in the enduring history of Faberge as the Russians sold off many of the treasures in the 1920s to bolster their economy. While some ended up in the collections of the rich and famous or went to museums, the whereabouts of others remain unknown.
Earlier this year, Wartski, a British dealer in rare Russian artifacts, confirmed the tale of a scrap metal dealer who bought one of the six missing imperial eggs at a flea market in the
Charbonneau says it apparently languished on the man's kitchen counter beside his microwave until he did an online search and found it likely had a greater value. Wartski brokered a deal with a private collector who reportedly paid more that CAN
"There's a lot of space between the objects," the curator observed. "Most of the time you can go around and see them from another angle, which I think is important with these objects. You have to see them in the round.
"It's quite fascinating. You can spend hours just looking at all these objects and wondering how they were made."
If you go:
For more information, call 514-285-2000 or visit www.mbam.qc.ca.
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