Monday, May 12, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A Fabergé Snail, pre-1896

Nephrite Snail
Carl Faberge
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Carl Fabergé—we know his work: the shimmering eggs, the wee, precious animals. But, what inspired this master? Fabergé amassed a tremendous and important collection of Japanese netsuke (those intricately-carved decorative pendants that were worn on men's kimonos). These jewel-like objects certainly influenced his animal carvings.

Fabergé employed a variety of hardstones to create the miniature menageries which were coveted by his Royal and aristocratic patrons, especially Queen Alexandra and her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary. Queen Alexandra assembled one of the largest collection of Fabergé animals when King Edward VII commissioned models from the Queen's Zoo at Sandringham. At Fabergé's London branch; in addition to the jewels, floral sculptures and other treasures, over 250 models of animals were available for purchase with the most popular being the elephant. 

This nephrite jade carving of a snail, made by Carl Fabergé himself before 1896. It lives at the V&A. I guess there was one that escaped both Alexandra and Mary. Or, maybe they didn’t like snails.

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