Fabergé eggs set to whip up interest at Heritage Museum
They're the stuff of legends, the ornately carved, jewel-encrusted eggs commissioned by the last Russian royals as gifts for their family.
George Clooney stole one in Ocean's Twelve, and Japanese detective novelists like to centre plots around them. Now four of the surviving 42 eggs are on display at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in an exhibition about the company that made them, Fabergé, and the artistic legacy of Imperial Russia.
"They remind you that everything is temporary. We are temporary, but these pieces of art will stay until eternity," said Victor Garanin, director of Moscow's Fersman Mineralogical Museum, which has the world's only unfinished imperial Fabergé egg in its collection.
That egg was commissioned in 1917, when the Russian revolution ended the Romanov dynasty and led to the communist Bolshevik takeover.
"Nicholas II dedicated it to his only son, Alexei," said Tatiana Muntyan, curator of Moscow's Kremlin Museums, pointing at a delicate blue egg at the Hong Kong exhibition. It is engraved with a pattern of stars in the night sky.
"It was supposed to be made of blue glass adorned by diamonds, on a cloud made of rock crystal, with silver angels all over the clouds, and placed on a stand made of nephrite, a jade-like material," she said.
Muntyan stands amid over 200 items, encased in glass, that belonged to the last Russian tsars and their families: jewels, a coronation robe, a tapestry and ordinary objects telling the history of how the Russian nobility lived. They also reflect the efforts some made to preserve these precious items.
The egg Muntyan was describing was lost for years until it was found hidden away in plain sight at the Fersman Mineralogical Museum, among other rocks and minerals. Muntyan speculates Fabergé's son gave it to a friend, the director of the mineralogical museum, to protect the egg from the Bolsheviks, who at the time were selling off the art abroad to fund their government.
The total collection of 270 items from the two Moscow museums is estimated to be worth over US$1 billion.
Most of the funding for the HK$10 million exhibition came from an anonymous Russian donor, with some from the Hong Kong government.
"Fabergé: Legacy of Imperial Russia" opened yesterday and runs until April 29.