On 29 December 2015, the exhibition “Fabergé and the Great War” opened in the General Staff.
The display, which contains 43 items, introduces visitors to unusual products of the House of Fabergé. The unique collection has been provided by the ZAO Russian National Museum in Moscow.
On the eve of hostilities in 1914, around 600 people were working in Fabergé’s workshops. The outbreak of the First World War cut back production, but the firm adapted its workshops to the needs of wartime and began to manufacture items intended for the front. The exhibition presents various types of pieces of this sort – copper and brass field samovars and kettles, saucepans and washstands, a lighter and a spirits cup. The firm produced medical syringes and containers in which they could be sterilized. Of particular historical value is a sterilization vessel included in the exhibition that bears the inscription “Infirmary named after the Heir and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolayevich in the Winter Palace” along with the monograms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her elder daughters, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatyana, all three of whom served as nurses in the hospital that was set up in the state rooms of the Winter Palace. Another rare item is the basin inscribed “Field Hospital Train №143 named after Her Imperial Majesty Empress Alexandra Feodorovna”.
After receiving a military order, the Fabergé workshops began to produce percussion tubes, spacing sleeves, grenades and cartridge cases. Fabergé’s Moscow factory was renamed the Moscow Mechanical Works. Fabergé reported to the War Department that “during the war I have opened a mechanical works where some 600 persons are employed, engaged exclusively in work connected with the defence of the state. At the present time, the firm is already completing the first order for 6,500,000 hand grenades, as proof of which I am attaching a notarized copy of the certificate from the Central Military-Industrial Committee with the number 4758.” On 23 March 1917, in a letter to Alexander Kerensky, the Minister of Justice in the new Provisional Government, he wrote that his works was “meeting a large order for the Chief Administration of Artillery for 2,000,000 brass artillery cartridges of the 1915 pattern.” The War Department repeatedly held up the products of Fabergé’s firm as an example of care and precision in manufacturing. Included in the exhibition is the bell that was rung to announce the start and end of the working day at Carl Fabergé’s Moscow Mechanical Works.
At the same time, Fabergé continued to work on commissions for the imperial family. Shortly before the war, for Easter, 6 April 1914, the firm produced a silver Easter egg decorated with the monograms of Emperor Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna that the Empress presented to her husband.
The exhibition curator is Marina Nikolayevna Lopato, Doctor of Art Studies, head of the Sector of Artistic Metal and Stone in the State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Applied Art.