Synopses & Reviews
In Stradivaris Genius
, Toby Faber charted the fascinating course of some of the worlds most prized musical instruments. Now, in this enthralling new book, he tells the story of objects that are, to many, the pinnacle of the jewelers art: the Fabergé imperial eggs.
The Easter presents that Russias last two czars gave to their czarinas have become synonymous with privilege, beauty, and an almost provocative uselessness. They are perhaps the most redolent symbols of the old empires phenomenal craftsmanship, of the decadence of its court, and of the upheavals that brought about its inevitable downfall. Fabergés Eggs is the first book to recount the remarkable story of these masterpieces, taking us from the circumstances that inspired each eggs design, through their disappearance in the trauma of revolution, to their eventual reemergence in the global marketplace.
In 1885, Carl Fabergé created a seemingly plain white egg for Czar Alexander III to give to his beloved wife, Marie Fedorovna. It was the surprises hidden inside that made it special: a diamond miniature of the Imperial crown and a ruby pendant. This gift began a tradition that would last for more than three decades: lavishly extravagant eggs commemorating public events that, in retrospect, seem little more than staging posts on the march to revolution. Above all, the eggs illustrate the attitudes that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Romanovs: their apparent indifference to the poverty that choked their country, their preference for style over substance, and, during the reign of Nicholas II, their all-consuming concern with the health of the czarevitch Alexis, the sickly heir to the throne-a preoccupation that would propel them toward Rasputin and the doom of the dynasty.
More than a superb new account of a classic tragedy, Fabergés Eggs illuminates some fascinating aspects of twentieth-century history. The eggs amazing journey from revolutionary Russia features a cast of characters including embattled Bolsheviks, acquisitive British royals, eccentric artifact salesmen, and such famous business and society figures as Arm and Hammer, Marjorie Merriweather Post, and Malcolm Forbes. Finally, Toby Faber tantalizingly suggests that some of the eggs long thought lost may eventually emerge.
Darting from the palaces of a besieged Russia to the showcases of New Yorks modern mega-wealthy, Fabergés Eggs weaves a story unparalleled in its drama and extravagance.
Praise for Stradivaris Genius
“Fascinating . . . lively . . . more enthralling, earthy and illuminating than any fiction could be.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“A celebration of six instruments and the master craftsman who made them . . . [Faber] brings to the subject an infectious fascination with Stradivaris life and trade. . . . He writes with clarity and fluency.”
“An extraordinary accomplishment and a compelling read. Like strange totems that cast an irresistible spell, these instruments bring out the best and the worst of those who would own them, and Faber deftly tells the stories in all their rich and surprising detail.”
-Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
“A worthy contribution to the ongoing legend of Stradivari.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Fascinating, accessible, and enjoyable.”
-Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring
"In 1885 Czar Alexander III presented his wife, Marie, with a spectacularly crafted Easter egg. Over the next three decades, its creator, Carl Faberg, made 49 more such eggs filled with jeweled surprises and exquisitely detailed paintings for the czar's family. Faber (Stradivari's Genius), former managing director of his family's firm, Faber & Faber, describes the eggs in loving, mouthwatering detail, bolstering his claim that the French-born jeweler led the Russian aristocracy to appreciate fine jewelry design over sheer gem size. Faberg's influence also spread westward. In England, Marie's sister, Queen Alexandra, also developed a passion for Faberg. Many of the eggs wound up in the United States after the canny businessman Armand Hammer made a deal with the Soviets to buy nearly one-third of them. Eventual owners included Egypt's King Farouk and cereal heiress Marjorie Meriweather Post. Faber frustratingly devotes far more ink to Romanov history and the precious eggs' twisted paths after leaving Russia than he does to the man who designed them. But the details he does provide such as Hammer's unscrupulous dealings make for a tantalizing read. 16 pages of color photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A fascinating tale of history and culture, this rich narrative traces the story of the fabulously ornate Faberg eggs, from their opulent inception in the Russian royal family to their eventual fate as priceless icons of a lost era. 16-page color photo insert.
About the Author
Born in Cambridge, England, in 1965, Toby Faber now lives in London with his wife and daughter. He was previously managing director of his familys renowned publishing firm, Faber and Faber. He is also the author of Stradivaris Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection.