The Imperial Easter Eggs of Carl Faberge – Before the Revolution

We were thrilled to welcome Toby Faber to talk to us today about Carl Faberge and the Imperial Easter Eggs ‘Before the Revolution’ A really fascinating and interesting talk which shone a light on the history and decline of the Romanov Empire.

Between1885 and 1916, Carl Fabergé made fifty jewelled eggs – Easter presents from Russia’s last two emperors to their wives. They have become the most famous surviving symbols of the Romanov Empire: both supreme examples of the jeweller’s art and the vulgar playthings of a decadent court. The story of how they were made reflects on that of Russia at the time: a quirkily illustrated history of the decline of the Romanovs.

Toby was a banker and management consultant before spending four years as managing director of the company founded by his grandfather, Faber and Faber. He remains on its Board and is Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music, an Arts Society lecturer, and a director of Liverpool University Press.

Toby has written three works of narrative non-fiction – Stradivarius (2004), described in The New York Times as ‘more earthy, enthralling and illuminating than any fiction could be’, Faberge’s Eggs (2008) and Faber & Faber: The Untold Story (2019) – and one novel, Close to the Edge (2019). Only one of those books (the obvious one) was published by Faber.

“Kakiemon Porcelain: “From Pleasure Quarters to Palaces”

On Thursday 9 September, we were delighted to welcome expert  Alexandra Aguilar via our Zoom meeting. Alexandra Aguilar is an auctioneer and Asian Art specialist with particular expertise in Japanese works of art. Originally from Dijon, Alexandra studied in France and England, before completing her Master’s degree on Scottish Collections of Japanese Art at the University of Edinburgh. Alexandra now regularly appears on The Antiques Roadshow in her capacity as Asian Art specialist.

Japan has been producing porcelain with overglaze enamels for nearly 400 years, but the early history of the technique is still shrouded in mystery. This talk considered the background to its inception and  concentrated on the particular case of Kakiemon figures. It illustrated the richness and complexity of the aesthetic language behind these three-dimensional models of ‘beauties’ (bijin), gods, animals and other mythical creatures. The huge enthusiasm for Kakiemon figures in 17th century Europe was also discussed, and Alexandra explored how the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie) monopolised the trade for Japanese polychrome porcelains and how it rapidly dwindled, after only a few decades.

As the Head of the Japanese Art Department at Woolley & Wallis Salerooms, Alexandra has had a number of significant finds, including a 17th century Kakiemon figure of a bijin and an unusual model of a Kakiemon minogame; examples of namban artworks including a rare gold lacquer table and a box and cover with cabriole legs; and several fully articulated models of animals (jizai okimono) including snakes, a dragon fish and a large model of a hawk. Alexandra is now concentrating her research on depictions of Europeans in 17th century Japanese art, with a particular emphasis on lacquer work.