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Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts

Thanks to Lillian Thomas Pratt, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has the largest public collection of Fabergé and Russian decorative arts in an American museum. It includes about 200 objects by or attributed to the Fabergé firm, as well as “Old Russian”–style works, such as silver and enamels, by Feodor Rückert and other masters.

Related Stories & Collections


The highlight of VMFA’s Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts Galleries are the extraordinary group of five imperial Easter eggs that Fabergé created for the last two tsars of Russia. The museum’s suite of five galleries displays a selection of Fabergé objects as well as other Russian decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a group of “Old Russian” enamel objects made in Moscow by Feodor Rückert and other masters.


Hardstones were relatively inexpensive and offered a wide range of colors and patterns. Cane handles, boxes and picture frames were carved from stones such as rock crystal, nephrite, jasper, and agate and mounted with gold, gilded silver, and gemstones. TO these functional objects, Fabergé soon added decorative vases of flowers and figural sculptures.

Old Russian Style

In the late 19th century, interest in national cultural identity developed in countries across Europe. In Russia, writers, musicians and artists turned to old Slavic fairy tales and epic poems for inspiration. These stories as well as specific decorative motifs from Russia’s past.

Miniature Easter Eggs

The Russian custom of giving decorated eggs to celebrate spring began even before early Slavs converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity around AD 988. In the Orthodox tradition, these colored eggs were reinterpreted as symbols of Christ’s resurrection and presenting them to friends and family became an important part of the celebration of Easter, the most significant holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church. Beginning in the 1880s, richly adorned miniature pendants designed as Easter eggs became popular Easter gifts for young ladies of society.

360° Views of VMFA’s Imperial Eggs

Fabergé’s greatest triumph was the series of fifty-two unique Easter eggs made for the last tsars of Russia. Inspired by the traditional Russian custom of giving decorated eggs at Easter, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the first Imperial Easter egg in 1885 as a gift for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. The First Hen Egg was made of gold covered in white enamel so that it resembled a real egg. When the empress opened the egg, she discovered a gold yolk. Inside the yolk was a hen, which contained a diamond-set crown and two ruby pendant eggs. She was so pleased that her husband continued the practice of giving her a Fabergé egg containing a surprise every year. Nine additional eggs were created as Easter presents for Maria Feodorovna from her husband, Tsar Alexander III.