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Faberge at the Paris World's Fair of 1900

The Paris World's Fair of 1900 was planned to be the most lavish one of its kind ever held.1 Preparations must have taken many years, since they involved a substantial modification of the capital's centre. Few are aware today that the Gare d'Orsay and both the Grand and the Petit Palais were built for this occasion. Both of these palaces, -which were then situated on 'Avenue Nicholas II' (today Avenue Winston Churchill), were baptised thus as a gesture of friendship towards Tsar Nicholas II. Together with Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and President Felix Faure, the Tsar had laid the foundation stone of the Pont Alexandre III on 7 October 1896, another monument destined to be opened in 1900 as a symbolic underpinning of Russo-French entente. The visit of the Tsar and Tsarina had been heralded for the opening of the Exposition Universelle in order to inaugurate the bridge. The visit never took place: French papers attributed the Russian change of mind to Alexandra Feodorovna's concern for their lives. Instead the bridge was inaugurated by the Russian Ambassador, Prince Ouroussov.

The World's Fair covered 112 hectares, extending to the Champs Elysees, the esplanade of the Invalides, the Champ de Mars, and the banks of the Seine. The Exposition opened its doors on 14 April 1900 and closed on 12 November. Paris was in ' a frenzy. Seventy-six thousand exhibitors showed their wares, and fifty million entries were registered. Cleo de Merode danced her Cambodian dances in the Asian Theatre at the Trocadero, and Sarah Bernhardt acted in Rostand's L'Aiglon, her star role.

The planning and construction of the Russian Pavillion and its contents at the Trocadero was a major undertaking. Mrde Kowalevsky, Director of the Department of Commerce and Manufacture, was President of the Imperial Commission, Mr A. de Raffalovich of the Ministry of Finance acted as its Vice-President, Prince Viiicheslas Tenicheff as its General Commissar, and Mr Rasil Wouyich as its Deputy Commissar. With a team of eighty-five members, the Commission succeeded in producing a most lavish mise en scene. Architect Meltzer recreated an entire city, with its kremlin, church, and all, to contain the Palais de Vasie Russe. A village in its middle exhibited the smaller Russian rural industries under the patronage of Grand Duchess Sergei. This Russian village was peopled -with typical workmen, craftsmen, cossacks, and musicians, including the famous V. V. Andreev with his Grand Russian orchestra, whom Feodor Chaliapin visited.

Since the Moscow-Vladivostok line of the Trans-Siberian Express had been inaugurated that same year, Wagons Lits exhibited an original train, which was used as a public bar. Visitors could imagine a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express as a continuous panorama glided past the bar's windows. In the section of textiles, the firm of Sapozhnikov exhibited the coronation mantles of Tsar Alexander III and of Nicholas II. Kt the Invalides (Industries Diverses), a large map of France was shown, made by the hardstone cutting factory of Ekaterinburg arid presented to the French Government by Tsar Nicholas II.

The exhibition of jewellery and goldsmith work was shown as part of the Pavillion de ITndustrie on the Esplanade des Invalides, with foreign exhibitors presenting their work in the annex building Section Etrangere. Faberge had been invited to participate as a member of the Classe 95 (Joaillerie et Bijouterie), which was presided by Louis Aucoc fils. His works appeared hors concours alongside Commission members Frederic Boucherori, Rene Lalique, and Henri Vever. As a member of the International Jury, he also showed works in the section Classe 94 (Orfevrerie), presided by Georges Roin, alongside Commission members Th.-Joseph Armand-Caillat and Emile Froment-Meurice.

At the House of Faberge preparations for this major occasion were in full swing by 1899. The Tsar and Tsarina had permitted Faberge to exhibit a selection of items from the Imperial Treasury, including a number of Imperial Easter eggs. Many works exhibited in Paris were later shown to the Russian public in 1902 at the Dervise Mansion (see descriptions of these items in Lopato, 'New Insights into Faberge from Russian Documents.')- It was Faberge's initiative to ask permission to reproduce some of the Imperial Regalia in miniature. A file 'On permission to jeweller Faberge to produce for the purpose of exhibiting at the Paris Exposition of the miniature replicas of the Imperial regalia' was opened on 28 June and closed on 24 August 1899.2

Having the intention to make the miniature replicas of the Imperia crowns regalia (some of them) for the forthcoming Paris World's Fail and not daring to do so without knowledge and permission of th> Cameral Office of His Majesty's Cabinet, f report such is my intentioi and kindly request to grant me, if possible, permission to make sud replicas.
28 June 1899 C. Faberge
Note: His Excellency V.V. Sipiagm - I ask you to discuss the mattei

Jeweller Faberge addressed the Cameral Office of His Majesty Cabinet with a request to allow him to make for the forthcoming Par World's Fair and to exhibit there the exact miniature replicas of soir Imperial regalia (big Emperor's Crown, Sceptre and Orb). Sue request of Mr Faberge is submitted for the consideration of yoi Excellency.
28 July 1899 Director of the Chamberlain's Office of His Majestj Cabinet in the rank of Imperial Court Equerry
V. Sipiagin.
Note: Imperial permission is granted, but not for sale.
Baron Frederiechs. 4. August 1899
Dear Sir, Carl Gustavovich,
I inform you that the Imperial permission is granted for yoi
manufacturing the replicas of the Imperial Regalia.3
A note in the files of the Imperial Cabinet concerns tl acquisition in 1902 of these replicas by His Majesty's Cabinet They have been on view at the Hermitage since that time.

In absence of a list of loans from Faberge, we can only ba our knowledge on the descriptions in contemporary repoi . Only a small number of Faberge's exhibits we actually mentioned either in the press or in the jury's repor Those that are described are the Pamiat Azova egg of 1891; tl Lilies-of-the-Valley basket and the Lilies-of-the-Valley egg both of 1896; the Pansy egg of 1899; and the miniature replicas of the Imperial Crown Jewels of 1900; a carnet de bal, a group of flowers, and a candelabra and a large centre-piece, both in nephrite and mounted in bronze and silver.

The Jury of Classe 94 (Orfevrerie) gave a very positive report on Faberge's exhibits.
We have examined with pleasure the works presented by Mr Faberge, the jeweller goldsmith, who, as member of the Jury of Classe 95, was hors concours. He showed us some interesting objects of goldsmith-work: a Louis XVI-style candelabra and a large decorative piece, in which the use of nephrite, bronze and silver and their decoration in the modern taste were worthy of praise, but what was most charming was his collection of precious objects, in gold and enamel destined to give satisfaction to the national tradition of presents, which both the great and the humble, the rich and the poor habitually give at the occasion of Easter.

The Collection of Easter eggs borrowed from the Imperial Treasure was quite exquisite.
These pieces stem more from the tradition of the ] eweller than of the goldsmith, but the forms, and the decoration and above all the dimensions have made us classify them more as goldsmithwork rather than jewellery. The mounts are delicate, the secret compartments, the chasing, the enamels were truly remarkable.

The Jury of Classe 95 (Joaillerie et Bijouterie) analysed Faberge's exhibits as follows:
One cannot but express one's satisfaction when one can examine one by one in detail the jewels exhibited by the House of Faberge. Hors concours as a member of the Jury, this is craftsmanship at the very limits of perfection, the transformation of a jewel into a true object of art. The perfect execution as well as irreproachable setting distinguish all objects exhibited by the House of Faberge, whether it is this tiny imperial crown set with 4000 stones, or these enamelled flowers so perfectly imitated that they seem natural, or these numerous objects of fantasy, which have been examined at length by the Jury.6

In the same vein, traditionalists amongst the critics hailed Faberge's art unreservedly as being stylistically and technically perfect, as Victor Champier observed.

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