As the world’s attention is currently trained on Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, a very distinctly Russian export is about to take centre stage in the Austrian capital of Vienna, part of the city’s Russian-Austrian Cultural Season. From the 18th of February through until the 18th of May, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum plays host to the exquisite work of Peter Carl Fabergé, arguably Russia’s premier jeweller and goldsmith at the turn of the 20th century.
As appointed court jeweller to the last Russian Tsar in 1885, the House of Fabergé expanded to become not only one of the country’s largest contemporary jewellers of its time, but also a player on the world stage, producing intricate and exceptional works for wealthy European families, nobility and financial magnates. Today Fabergé is perhaps most renowned for its most precious commodity, the highly sought-after Fabergé egg, with only 50 ever made (and only 42 having survived).
‘The World of Fabergé’ exhibition contains some 160 works on loan from the Kremlin Museum and the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow, showcasing these glorious gems and exploring the role of Fabergé and his work within contemporary and Imperial Russia. Pride of place goes to four Easter eggs, commissioned by the Imperial family, presented alongside other private and ceremonial artefacts from the House of Romanov and hardstone carvings created by Fabergé and others. There is also the opportunity to compare the work of Fabergé alongside other Russian Imperial jewellers such as Bolin, Blank, Ovchinnikov and Khlebnikov.
Whilst you’re there, take time also to visit the museum’s extensive permanent portfolio which include one of the world’s most important collections (over 12,000 exhibits) of Egyptian antiquities. There’s also impressive Greek and Roman exhibits, as well as an extensive picture gallery developed from the art collections of the House of Habsburg, featuring works by the greats including Rubens, van Dyck, van Eyck, Dürer, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Raphael. If that’s not enough, the Kunsthistorisches Museum also contains the Kunstkammer Wien, a weird and wonderful collection of arts combing the unique qualities of the natural world including precious stones, ostrich eggs, coral and even sharks’ teeth.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays) from 10am to 6pm (9pm on Thursdays) and is situated in Maria-Theresien-platz, close to the Albertina. Entrance costs 14€ (concessions 11€). The perfect addition to a Vienna short break.