All that glitters in Vegas is gold – Fabergé exhibit opens at Bellagio

It is not just the neon and holiday lights that are glittering in Las Vegas this winter.

The sparkling gold, silver, diamonds and other precious gems adorning the masterpieces of Carl Fabergé’s studios are now competing with the lights of the Las Vegas Strip to see which shine brighter.

Fabergé Revealed, an exhibit of 238 rare Fabergé pieces, is now on display at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. The pieces are part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection, the largest public collection of Fabergé items outside of Russia.

Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), Fabergé firm, Henrik Wigstrom (workmaster), 1912. Egg: Lapis lazuli, gold, diamonds. Surprise: platinum, lapis lazuli, diamonds, rock crystal, watercolor, ivory. Egg: 12.3 x 9 cm. Surprise: 9.5 x 6 cm. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt. Photo Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

With any Fabergé exhibit you expect to see the famed Fabergé eggs. The imperial eggs are signature creations of Fabergé studios and were created for the czars of Russia who gave them as Easter gifts to family members.

Only 50 imperial eggs were created and only 43 are still known to exist. The Virginia Museum of Arts has five eggs and four of them are on display at the Bellagio gallery.

Visitors will get a chance to see the Imperial Pelican Egg, Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg, Imperial Cesarevich Easter Egg and the Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg.

Like any good Easter egg, the imperial eggs created by Fabergé studios contain a secret – framed pictures, diamond studded portraits and carved figures. In most cases, the prize inside the egg is displayed next to the egg. But one egg in the exhibit is surprisingly closed up with only a description to hint at its prize inside. More on that later.

Fabergé Revealed, like the famous eggs, is also full of hidden surprises. First it’s not all eggs. Sure Fabergé is famous for them, but the exhibit showcases a variety of creations from the famous studio that demonstrates the talents of these gold and silversmiths.

Check out the Brave Knights Kovsh, a Russian drinking vessel. This epic presentation piece showcases Fabergé studios mastery of Art Nouveau style and silver repousse work. The knights appear ready to gallop off the vessel and charge visitors to the show.

A silver fish server is so lifelike you expect it to swim out of the display case while two realistic silver rabbits are really a pitcher and a bell push. There are also numerous animals carved out of stone and precious materials. There’s no end to the amazing animals in the exhibit.

Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), Fabergé firm, The Zarnitsa Sailor, about 1900, quartz, aventurine, onyx, lapis lazuli, sapphires, gold, 12 x 6 x 3.1 cm. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt. Photo Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Other surprises include displays of artificial flowers created from precious materials, cases of everyday items from cigarette cases to cane handles and a selection of Russian religious icons.

There’s even a display of fake Fabergé items, making you wonder if New York City’s Canal Street ever had a “Faux”-berge store.

But the greatest surprises are the objects with intimate connections with the Romanov family. A tiny hardstone statuette of a sailor from the imperial yacht Zarnista holds the secret of an illicit love affair, betrayal, exile and death. A rare Fabergé star-shaped frame holds the picture of the Duchess Tatiana gunned down with her family in July 1918. The frame had actually traveled with the family to their exile and eventual death in Ekaterinburg. The head executioner had listed the frame in an inventory of their possessions.

From glittering eggs to bedazzled everyday items, Fabergé Revealed provides a look into the last years of flowering of extravagance, wealth, beauty and craftsmanship that marked the end of the Russian imperial family and the start of the 20th century.

For one last surprise, skip the small souvenir area outside the Bellagio Gallery and head to Café Gelato just steps away. There you can purchase your own Fabergé egg created in chocolate by the pastry artists of the Bellagio hotel. At $60, we’ll guarantee you it’s way more affordable than the eggs found in the exhibit and tastes better too.

Oh and that Imperial Pelican Egg, it doesn’t hold a secret, it is the secret. Rather than containing a removable portrait or prize, the egg unfolds to show eight pearl framed paintings on ivory depicting orphanages or schools patronized by Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. For the exhibit the egg is shown in its egg shape, but check out a picture below to see it in its unfolded glory.


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