Ņarl Faberge has a lot to answer for. His work has come to define
the decorative arts and objets d'art made in Russia before the
1917 Revolution. When you talk about Russian collectibles today,
Faberge is what everybody knows, almost to the exclusion of anything
else. What can you say about Faberge that has not already been
said? The work produced by his craftsmen was exquisite, and it
deserves the reputation that it has.
And yet there are so many misconceptions about the Faberge business;
take a look at the photograph of his flagship store in St Petersburg,
and you will see how many counters there are, and how many assistants.
There was also a store in Moscow, and stores abroad. Faberge and
his sons employed a host of craftsmen and artists, and they produced
thousands of decorative objects. The eggs that he produced for
the Imperial Romanov Family have made his name famous the world
over, but they represent only a fraction of the work that he produced.
There is a lot of Faberge around, and you can still find pieces
in St Petersburg. What I mean is, that the work is wonderful but
it is not that rare.
Moreover, if you search for Faberge on eBay you will be overwhelmed
with items described as Faberge when they are anything but - toys,
dolls, glasses. The name is so famous that it has been appropriated
by a host of businesses which have nothing to do with the original
Also, in the same way that Tiffany is not the only jeweller in
New York, and Cartier is not the only jeweller in Paris, so Faberge
was not the only jeweller working in Imperial Russia. Karl Hahn,
the court jeweller, could produce items the equal of Faberge. Superb
jewellery, enamelware and silverware was also being made by firms
such as Khlebnikov, Ovchinnikov, Nemirov-Kolodkin, Sazikov, the
Grachev Brothers, and by Nichols and Plinke (which was known as
the 'English Shop').
I think that Faberge is over-priced, and it is primarily for this
reason that I prefer to sell decorative objects produced by other
manufacturers. They are not as well-known but their work is excellent.
Porcelain was being made by some fifty or so companies - the Imperial
Porcelain Manufactory, Gardner, Popov, Miklashevsky, Yusupov, Kudinov,
Sabanov and, of lesser quality, by the conglomerates of Kuznetsov
and the Kornilov Brothers.
After 1917 high quality decorative objects were not, as a general
rule, being made in the Soviet Union. This is not to say that there
is nothing worth buying after 1917, only that the objects themselves
take on a different look. This is where the word 'collectibles'
is more appropriate. I would not call a stainless-steel kettle
made in the 1920s a decorative object, but I would say that the
unusual design makes it worth buying. Similarly, the porcelain
designed by Chekhonin and Malevich at the State Porcelain Factory
(formerly the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory) is one of the best
examples of the Russian Avant-Garde. In short, Russian collectibles
is a very loosely-defined term, and I hope that you will find something
here that catches your eye, in the same way that it caught mine.
Programme Booklet for the
Gala Performance of The Pearl
at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 17 May, 1896,
in celebration of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II