Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fabulous Faberge

Recently a large pink Faberge egg sold for $18 million at a Christie’s auction, setting a record for Faberge eggs. The new owners of the brand, Pallinghurst, Inc. are no doubt, extremely pleased with this price.

They hope to restore the company’s illustrious reputation which was tarnished during the seventies by some bad choices of perfumes and tacky diamond-encrusted jeans!
Already Faberge sales of the famous clocks and jewelry have increased greatly.
The new owners have the family’s approval and Pallinghurst, Inc. has appointed Tatiana and Sarah Faberge, the founder’s great-great granddaughters as advisors.

The famous Russian firm was begun by Gustav Faberge, a goldsmith, who immigrated to the country from France when Peter 1 invited goldsmiths, artists, and other skilled people to St.Petersburg. The Tsar wanted to make the city into a center for the arts and his ‘window to the West’.

It was Gustav’s son, Peter, who really founded the company’s fine reputation, however. He studied his art in Florence, London, and Paris, after completing his craftsman’s apprenticeship at a young age. When he returned to Russia he became friendly with the treasurer of the Winter Palace and started copying some of the collections there. Assisted by his brother, Agathon, who was a brilliant designer, he gradually became famous for his unusual techniques and craftsmanship. Faberge used brightly colored enamelling, gold and silver, precious stones and cabochons.

Peter Carl Faberge was so meticulous about the quality of the firm’s work that he smashed any piece that wasn’t up to his standards with a hammer!

Tsar Alexander III noticed copies of ancient jewelry made by the brothers at an exhibition and he was very impressed. Faberge soon became the Imperial goldsmith and silversmith, which increased its reputation greatly. I soon became the largest business of its type in Russia.

The Imperial family began the tradition of giving Faberge eggs as gifts at Easter in the same year (1885). The Tsar commissioned the family to create an egg for his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. Known as the ‘Hen Egg’ this had plain white enameling and a gold yolk holding a golden hen. They continued the tradition until 1916.

Other famous clients included the British royal family, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and the Rothschild’s. King Edward VII commissioned a miniature zoo for his beautiful wife, Alexandra.

The Russian Revolution led to the company’s sad decline. Some of the family attempted to continue their fine work from France but in 1951 an American corporation acquired the rights to the brand for only $25,000.00. The family couldn’t afford the expensive litigation required to retain the rights.

It is to be hoped that this company, with its distinguished history, can restore its fine reputation. Tatiana Faberge said in the firm’s Press Release about the historic reunification:

‘I have dreamed of
this moment for decades. It has been my life’s ambition
to restore the unsurpassed
standards of design and workmanship that characterised my
great-grandfather’s treasures. Now, finally, we have the basis
for fulfilling this ambition. I am very
pleased to be a part of one of the most significant developments
in Faberge’s history.

(NB:This is also on my old Orble blog.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Under The Jacaranda Tree

This painting by Queensland artist Godfrey Rivers is one of my favourites. It has been called 'quintessentially Brisbane' but it's also 'quintessentially Edwardian'. The serene drinking of tea under the shade of the huge jacaranda, the long white dress and the parasol, and the maid serving the tea are all typical of an Edwardian summer.

Rivers captured the Queensland light and the bluish-purple shade of the flowers perfectly.

The Sensational Scotts: Captain Robert Scott and Kathleen Scott

Scott of the Antarctic by David Crane

This is a grim and very sad story of great courage and sacrifice told movingly and sympathetically by David Crane. Recent historians have given Scott's reputation a beating and Crane restores it very well in this excellent book. He argues that all of the qualities that made Scott so beloved by Edwardians - honour, loyalty, patriotism, sacrifice - are the very characteristics which have made him reviled today.

After reading this book I wonder that anyone dared to criticise Captain Scott. As Sir Ranulf Fiennes wrote: "No previous Scott biographer has manhauled a heavy sledgeload through the great crevasse fields of the Beardmore Glacier, explored icefields never seen by a man or walked a thousand miles on poisoned feet. To write about hell, it helps if you have been there."

Scott coped with enormous difficulties - the deaths of some of his men, the loss of dogs and ponies, crevasses, manhauling heavy loads, terrible winds. The list goes on and on. In the end it was really only the unusually cold weather that defeated his team, according to Crane.

Scott's leadership has been criticised and he did have flaws. He could easily get irritable and he didn't like any lowering of standards, but his men (except for Shackleton) said that they'd follow him to the ends of the earth. As indeed they did.

The sentence that summed up the character of this complicated naval officer, who was unhappily beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen, for me was: "In his journal Bowers noted that Scott gave himself a longer trace on his harness when they were pulling through the worst of the crevassed areas, so that if anyone went down it would be him."

Scott's Last Words

I defy anyone to read these without being moved to tears.

"Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for."

A Great Task of HappinessA Great Task of Happiness: Kathleen Scott by Louisa Young

I can't find this and I hate losing things, especially books, so it's really upsetting me! I'll write a little bit about it from memory, but I like to have the book beside me when I review it. I'll write more when I find it.

This was the sort of book that I really like. Kathleen really had a more interesting life than her admirable husband! She lived life at a breakneck speed and Young, her grand-daughter writes in a breathless style which suits it.

A Bohemian young sculptor who 'gallivanted around Europe' and loved to sleep outside, Kathleen didn't meet Scott until she was 28 and he was over 40. Before this she studied art in Paris where she met Rodin and attracted flocks of men (as she seemed to all of her life), went to Macedonia to help war-victims and backpacked in Greece and Italy. She also met the famous dancer, Isadora Duncan, and stayed with her when she had her baby. Isadora was in love with a 'cad' and was still single. This was rather shocking in those days but Kathleen didn't care.

She became famous herself after she married Scott, gaining commissions from people such as Lloyd George and George Bernard Shaw. She associated with the aristocracy and artists.

Kathleen became rather an intimidating figure as she got older, apparently, although liked by many. Her daughter-in-law, the novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard, married Kathleen's son, Peter, and found Kathleen difficut to cope with. Only 17 when they married, she felt that she couldn't live up to the success of this eminent family.

Kathleen's reputation has been blackened like her husband's. She's been accused of having an affair with the explorer, Nanssen, while Scott was suffering in the wilds of Antarctica; deserting Duncan when she took to drink; and various other things. Young restores her name in this book, correcting these misconceptions. This is very much worth reading if you are interested in the Edwardian age, the English aristocracy, or just a good biography.

How I Became Interested In Reading About Kathleen

I first went to beautiful Christchurch, NZ, four years ago and saw Kathleen Scott's sculpture of Captain Scott near the cathedral. When I came back I looked her up on the internet and found out more about her. I meant to read this book then but I didn't do it until I came back from NZ last year! She deserves to be famous once again so I hope that this blog will make more people aware of her.

NB: I also published this on my Book Addiction blog

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Anna Pavlova in Australia

This lovely link from Poeartica is about the great ballerina's arrival in Australia in the twenties, but she comes into the category of famous Edwardian people so I am including it here: All Hail The Dancing Queen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Movie of Edwardian London

London 1904 On Film was made to show Australians what life in London was like in 1904! I haven't seen it yet because watching these movies takes up so much bandwidth but I'm looking forward to it!

Course Hero: A Great Idea For Students

Course Hero is a social networking site which provides a way for college students and tutors to interact. It is a relatively new idea that gives students access to many different textbooks and enables them to form study groups.

There are over 200,000 textbook solutions at Course Hero. These range from books on calculus to texts on management. Two examples are Virginia Tech Textbook Answer and Accounting Textbook Answers. There are also final lecture guides, examples of answers to exam questions, and notes on homework.

Course Hero also provides a way for students to form study groups. They can ask each other questions, help each other with resources, and provide fellow students with support while studying for exams and assignments.

Students can find fellow students, professors and obtain resources easily at Course Hero Signing up is free and easily done through Coursehero’s Facebook page. Basic membership is free. This clever idea will definitely help college students to get ‘A’ grades!