Faberge Biography

Introduction to Faberge Art

Faberge aimed to give pleasure and to celebrate some special occasion with a beautiful gift. His creations usually, given by men to women: by the Tsar to the Tsarina, King Edward to Queen Alexandra, a Russian officer of the Imperial Guard to an admired ballerina or an Edwardian gentleman to a social beauty. No-one during his lifetime would have thought of amassing collection of Faberge objects; his creations were of the moment, pleasing indulgences.

Faberge's fame rests on his achievement in creating the series of Imperial eggs - the result of an act of patronage on the grand scale by the Imperial family of Russia. The commission of Faberge as imperial warrant, supplier to the imperial court gave him the freedom to ignore questions of cost and time and to concentrate on the challenge of creating something new and spectacular each year, a challenge he met with outstanding success.

Peter Carl Faberge biography

Peter Carl Faberge (1846-1920) stands as a representative of a vanished age: the age of the Tsar and the fabulously rich imperial court in Russia. It was an age of empires and European monarchies that was brought to an end forever by the World War I (1914-1918). The production of luxury goods ceased completely in Russia as the war dragged on, ushering in decades of hardship and dramatic changes in the social system within which the imperial court had flourished. Today, long after the 1917 Revolution, the name Faberge conjures images of Russian imperial grandeur.

Carl Faberge was Russian-born of French lineage, his ancestors having left France in the late seventeenth century. His father, Gustav, was born in Pernau on the Baltic Sea and moved to St., where he opened a jewelry shop in 1842. In 1870, at the age of twenty-four, Carl took over his father's modest business and began to turn it into an establishment of international renown. His business came to be patronized by the Tsars and imperial court as well as other royal houses and aristocracy of Europe. He went from the production and sale of routine gold and silver jewelry, to an output of objects d'art, an almost limitless variety of accessories for the lady or gentleman.

Faberge relied on creative design and exquisite enameling for the success and appeal of his products, rather than on the carat weight of stones or the lavish gold settings that had been the opulent norm in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Faberge later conceived such objects de fantasy as hard stone carved animals and hard stone-and-gold flowers.

Beginning of Faberge legacy

Carl Faberge trained as a young man in Frankfurt am Main, apprenticed to the goldsmith and jeweler Friedman. In 1860, when Carl was fourteen years old, the Faberge family had moved to Dresden from St. Petersburg and it is quite likely that Carl had stayed behind for a time to be trained under his father's manager Hiskias Pendin. (Gustav Faberge had retired and left his shop in St. Petersburg under the supervision of Pendin.)

Carl returned to St. Petersburg in 1870 to take over the firm, and two years later he married Augusta Jacobs, daughter of a foreman at the Imperial Furniture Workshops. In 1882 he was joined in St. Petersburg by his twenty-year-old brother Agaphon, who was to make an important contribution to the firm as a jewelry designer.

Carl Faberge, the goldsmith and jeweler of St. Petersburg, was active at the end of an era that had begun with Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century. Peter built his city of St. Petersburg (renamed Petrograd in 1914 and then Leningrad in 1924) near the mouth of the river Neva on the Gulf of Finland as a "window to the West." Western architects such as Tressini and Rastrelli were instrumental in giving the city its European flavor. Built on marshy land and incorporating a series of canals, Peter's city came to be known as the "Venice of the North." During the eighteenth century the rulers of Russia continued the westernizing begun by Peter. The goldsmiths and silversmiths that came to St. Petersburg were frequently of foreign birth. From Germany, Finland, France, and Switzerland they came to satisfy the demands of the imperial court for silver candlesticks and Parisian-style gold snuff boxes.

Such European-born goldsmiths as Jean-Pierre Ador, J. Pauzie, and members of the Kolbe family worked in St. Petersburg during the latter part of the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century, the well-known firm of Nicholls and Plincke specialized in high-quality table silver in the much admired English style; their establishment was known as the "English Shop." (One of the partners was English, in fact-namely, Charles Nicholls.) The firms of Sazikov (founded in 1793) and Ovchinnikov (founded in Moscow in 1853 and in St. Petersburg in 1873) produced silver ware more in the Russian national style.

Influence and inspiration of International art on Faberge

Faberge was inspired by the styles and design of eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century France, from rococo to Empire, but his imagination roamed far and wide and even drew from Japanese sources. Faberge acquired a substantial collection of netsuke, the small, carved-ivory toggles used in conjunction with a Japanese man's kimono sash. One can detect the strong Rococo influences upon the creations of Faberge's work master Michael Perchin in particular.

In understanding Faberge's turn-of-the-century Russia, the differences between Moscow and St. Petersburg should be borne in mind. St. Petersburg, the modern, Western-oriented city was the new capital of the empire and home to the imperial court. Moscow, with its ancient Kremlin and brilliant multicolored Russian architecture, was the old capital and seat of the aged traditions of Russian culture and art. Faberge branched out from St. Petersburg in 1887 to establish a shop in Moscow, where he produced work in the "Old Russian" style as well as large quantities of everyday table silver. The 1913 tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty gave rise to widespread production of pieces in the Old Russian style, which harkened back to seventeenth-century pre-Petrine Russia. Such objects frequently incorporated the State coat of arms, with its double-headed eagle, and thus took on a rather robust Russian flavor.

Faberge in St. Petersburg and Moscow

There was a difference in the organization of the St. Petersburg and Moscow establishments. In St. Petersburg, there were a number of discrete workshops, each headed by a separate master goldsmith or jeweler known as a work master. Faberge's Moscow branch was managed as a more or less unitary workshop. In St. Petersburg, there were more than twenty work masters whose marks can now be identified on products from the house of Faberge. The leading work master of the workshop overall, and the executor of the most important commissions, was the head work master. Michael Perchin was the head work master from 1886 until his death in 1903, when he was succeeded by his chief assistant Henrik Wigstrom. These two work masters were responsible for almost all the imperial Easter eggs. Erik Kollin, a Finn, was head work master from 1870 to 1886 and produced gold jewelry, including pieces in the Scythian style (the Scythian treasure had just been discovered at Kertch in the Crimea). Other work masters, also mostly Finns, were August Holmstrom who had been appointed head jeweler by Gustav Faberge in 1857 - Anders Nevalainen, Carl Gustav Hjalmar Armfelt, Johan Victor Aarne , Fodor Afanassiev, Andrei Gorianov, August Hollming, Karl Lundell, Anders Mickelson, Gabriel Niukkanen, Knut Oscar Pihl, Wilhelm Reimer, Philip Theodore Ringe, Eduard Schramm, Vladimir Soloviev, Alfred Thielemann, Stephan Wakeva and his son Alexander Wiikevii. Julius Rappoport was head silversmith.

History of Faberge