We were en route to the beach, with George and The Student, whose mandate for the long weekend was to “not learn anything.” So, George and Anna Grace were dropped at a park while Tony and I conducted an artful surgical strike at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
We need to return.
We need to do a lot of things, really.
So what necessitated the in-and-out at the VFMA? The Faberge collection, the largest such collection outside of Russia, was bequeathed to the then-new museum by Mrs. Lillian Thomas Pratt in 1946, wife of an extraordinary engineer, John Lee Pratt, who rubbed elbows with the likes of the du Pont Family; Secretary of State George C. Marshall; General (and President) Eisenhower…you get the idea.
The Mrs. certainly acquired some lovely mementos throughout their travels to the Soviet Union. This 1897 Pelican Egg was designed for Tsar Nicholas II’s mother and contains gold, diamonds, pearls and ivory. The commissioning of the egg was in celebration of patronage by Russia’s dowager empresses for institutions that educated the daughters…of nobility. When the egg is unfolded, one finds a folding frame with miniature paintings of these institutions.
This 1912 Tsesarevich Egg was commissioned just because, and is comprised of lapis, gold and diamonds. The accompanying portrait is of son Aleksei, heir to the imperial throne.
In keeping with Mrs. Pratt’s theme of eggs with paintings, this is the 1915 Red Cross Egg, a tribute to the dowager empresses’s service as the Russian Red Cross President. The folding frame of of Red Cross workers closest to the Tsarina fits neatly inside the egg.
The Pratt Collection contains more than the eggs, obviously. Mrs. Pratt also brought home gold works. This This Terrestrial Globe (1899) caught our attention, made of rock crystal and engraved with the continents, longitudes and latitudes. This particular artist has also created a similar piece that resides in Queen Elizabeth II’s collection.
In the “Plants and Animals” categories of the Pratt Collection, agate and carnelian cockerels with diamond eyes; and Lilies of the Valley with pedal and diamond blooms. Just like the ordinary whimsy found in an average household.
Naturally “Enamels” would be featured in their own room; though, these pieces are not part of the Pratt wheelhouse. The tankard and kovsch are stunning when viewed up close, with the latter adored in Siberian hardstones.
How did I manage an up close look at the kovsch (and everything else?) I bought the book. A bargain at just $15, its hefty 400 pages and 585 color illustrations provide hours of daydreaming for me.
You may notice the name of the head curator for this publication commemorating the 75th anniversary of the museum in 2011, Géza von Habsburg, the great-great-grandson of the good Kaiser. Mr. von Habsburg is a Fabergé expert, because of course he is. After all, cousin Otto had brought about the fall of the wall in 1989, so Géza had to find something to excel at.
Wrapping up the ostentatiousness, what else to serve caviar in but a silver Sturgeon-shaped bowl?
If my calculations are correct, I believe have seen nearly half of the Imperial Fabergé eggs known to exist. I doubt The Queen will let me drop in to see the three she owns, so this particular art checklist will remain forever incomplete.