Contemporary art paired with Faberge Eggs at the Walters Art Museum

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Contemporary art paired with Faberge Eggs at the Walters Art Museum
Installation view.

BALTIMORE, MD.- Fabergé eggs, some of the most exquisite objects ever created, continue to fascinate with their beauty and complexity. These royal treasures were designed by Peter Carl Fabergé, jeweler and goldsmith to the Russian imperial court, and made by his team of skilled craftsmen. The Walters Art Museum unveiled Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy, a stunning exhibition of more than 70 objects including the Walters’ two famed Fabergé eggs, alongside a dazzling array of gold and silver drinking vessels, intricate enamels, carved stones, luxurious jewelry, and icons that illuminate the beauty, technical sophistication and artistry of Russian crafts.

“The Walters Art Museum invites visitors to experience the beauty of these magnificent objects, and to explore the history and stories surrounding the Russian Romanov dynasty and the House of Fabergé,” says Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director.

Also on view is After Fabergé, an exhibition of five large-scale digital prints by artist Jonathan Monaghan. A digital animator by training, Monaghan creates finely-crafted, virtual versions of Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs.

Both exhibitions run through June 24, 2018.

Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy
Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy features more than 70 objects ranging from 14th-century religious icons to the Walters’ two Imperial Easter eggs—the Gatchina Palace Egg (1901) and the Rose Trellis Egg (1907)—and provides fresh interpretations of Fabergé’s creations. This exhibition invites visitors to consider the broader historical context from which the House of Fabergé emerged, while marveling at some of the most magnificent works in the Walters Art Museum’s collection.

During the three centuries of Russia’s Romanov dynasty, patronage of the arts flourished. In 1885, the House of Fabergé created the first of fifty increasingly intricate jeweled and enameled Easter eggs. While the eggs may be among its most famous art objects, the output of Peter Carl Fabergé’s workshop was as diverse as it was ambitious. Fabergé united the technical and artistic skills of experts in enameling, gem-cutting and metal-smithing, and drew inspiration from the cultures of Japan, China and France. The workshop often followed the latest fashions, incorporating colorful, avant-garde elements into many objects; it also looked back in time, reviving historic Russian designs in traditional materials. This variety enabled Fabergé to build a wider audience, apart from the Russian elite, and made its products accessible to middle-class shoppers as well.

The House of Fabergé has come to symbolize Russia’s exceptional artistic output under the patronage of the Romanovs. Today, one hundred years after the abrupt and violent end of the Romanov dynasty during the revolution of 1917, the Fabergé name remains legendary.

After Fabergé
After Fabergé, an exhibition of five digital prints by artist Jonathan Monaghan, runs concurrently with Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition through June 24, 2018. His large-scale digital prints blend the detail of the original masterworks with aspects of modern culture. The gold, enamel and diamonds are replaced with the furnishings, technological gadgets and brand architecture of the present. “I place every detail and determine the surface texture and the lighting, only instead of using gold and inlay, I am using pixels,” said Monaghan. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Monaghan was a semifinalist for the 2016 Sondheim Prize, has had work screened at the Sundance Film Festival and has been featured in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Village Voice.

Speaking about the source of his inspiration, Monaghan recalled his first visit to the Walters Art Museum. “After I arrived at the University of Maryland for graduate school, the first place I went to was the Walters. I saw the Fabergé eggs and I was blown away by the level of craft and detail; they take on an almost otherworldly presence,” Monaghan said. “Fabergé is part of our cultural lexicon—it often shows up in popular culture, like in a James Bond movie or on the television show The Simpsons—and embodies a kind of obsessive desire.”

Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy has been organized by the Walters Art Museum and is drawn from the Walters’ collection of Russian decorative arts. The exhibition is curated by Margaret Trombly, an independent scholar and co-author of the accompanying publication. The organizing curator at the Walters is Jo Briggs, Associate Curator of 18th- and 19th-Century Art.

A lavishly illustrated book tells the story of the extraordinary works that emerged from the Russian decorative arts tradition. Co-published with Thames & Hudson, the book is available in the Walters Art Museum Store and online ($39.95, hardcover with slipcase).

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