Russian tsar’s family jewels glitter at Delhi exhibition (With Images)

December 7th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) These are Easter eggs with a difference. A collection of enamel eggs encrusted with precious stones, which belonged to the tsars of Russia, is drawing crowds at the National Museum in the capital. The eggs are in India for the first time as part of an exhibition called “Faberge - The Priceless Jewellery of Russian Empire” that was inaugurated Friday.

The 196 priceless jewels, valued at $22 million, have been sourced from top museums and private collections in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Links of Time, a cultural and historical foundation established by businessman Victor Vexelberg in London.

The House of Faberge, the legendary jewellers’ then led by Carl Faberge, decked almost every royalty across the globe. It crafted several bejewelled eggs between 1848 to 1920 - when jewellery designing as a craft peaked in haute Europe during the pre-war days.

The eggs became the signature of the Russian royal cache.

Each egg is unique in craftsmanship and has a rich lineage. The Coronation Egg crafted in 1897 was presented by the last Tsar, Nicholas II, to his wife Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, on Easter.

Made of gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies and rock crystals, the yellow egg with an enamel surface and honeycombed embellishments was designed by M. Perkhin of Faberge.

The egg comes with a delicately crafted golden stagecoach - the “surprise element” that the empress expected to accompany her egg every Easter.

The Lily-of-the-Valley egg created a flutter when it was exhibited in the Paris World Fair in 1900. Designed in 1898 in the art nouveau style, the delicate egg in pink guilloche enamel has rows of diamond roses and pearls. It is woven with lillies of the valley in golden stems and green enamel.

Records cite that at the opening of the Nizhny Novgorod Fair in 1896, Faberge presented the egg to the empress with a gold basket of pearl lilies-of-the-valley, a symbol of purity, youth and innocence to surround the egg. This was the surprise element.

According to Pavan K. Varma, director-general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), eggs played an important part in royal Russia because of the Orthodox Church, which used them to highlight the importance of Easter that marks the resurrection of Christ.

The original collection also comprised a Resurrection Egg crafted in 1890, which was long ignored, only to be found later.

The exhibition also includes combs, evening bags, pens, penknives, vases, snuff boxes and cigarette cases. The three-month display is being jointly hosted by ICCR, the Ministry of Culture of Russian Federation and the State Museum and Exhibition Centre (ROSIZO).

“We wanted to close the Year of Russia in India with something spectacular in the sphere of an exhibition,” Varma told IANS.

“It was not an easy task to put together the exhibition - there was the insurance to take care of, safe transportation from its repositories across the globe to Delhi, a safe vault to display, several agreements of guarantee and claims of immunity to sign and then the formalities of mounting the exhibition,” he added.

Nicholas II and his family were shot dead by the Bolsheviks on the night of July 17, 1917. Some of the priceless gems from the royal Russian jewellery casket were seized by revolutionaries and others taken out of the country in the exodus of the royalty that ensued.

The jewellery later found their way into the homes of private collectors, trusts and state museums.

“They were killed more than 70 years ago. The exhibition symbolises revisiting the past, rediscovering the grandeur of tsarist Russia and re-appreciating the sophistication of European traditional craftsmanship,” Varma said.

The tsar’s family jewels will be in India till January.

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