Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peter Carl Faberge: One of History's Most Important Jewelers

Equestrian Faberge Egg
Equestrian Egg for Alexander III
Courtesy of Stan Shebb
Peter Carl Faberge, or simply Carl Faberge, is the jeweler behind Faberge eggs. His creations have been highly sought after for more than one hundred years. He crafted many wares, but his eggs were, and remain, his most popular items. They were so popular during his lifetime that the last tsars of Russia purchased at least one a year after Faberge's talent was discovered and before the October Revolution in Russia. At that time, Carl's talents were no longer needed. His royal patrons were dead. 

Peter Carl Faberge was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 30, 1846. His father was a jeweler who had opened a shop in St. Petersburg in 1842. The family was of French descent, but they would find their fortune and fame in Russia. They moved to Dresden, Germany in 1860. At that time, Carl went to school to learn his father's craft. He also did his goldsmith apprenticeship in Germany - at the House of Friedman, to be exact.

Carl Faberge completed his education in 1864, at which time he returned to St. Petersburg and began working in his father's shop. He took over the business in 1872. He spent roughly the first ten years of his career cataloguing the objects in the Russian coffers. He also created pieces of his own, most of them of the style that was popular at the time--nothing like the intricate pieces he began creating in the 1880s. Carl had a younger brother named Agathon who also became a jeweler. He came to work with Carl and the two of them made the business famous.

Agathon and Carl Faberge decided to make pieces that were far more detailed than what was available at the time. When they brought some of these to an exhibition attended by Tsar Alexander III and his wife, their surname became famous. Carl became the jeweler to the tsars in 1885, under Tsar Alexander III. He made (or had his skilled artisans make) one egg for the tsar every year, which Alexander gave to his wife. After Alexander died, his son--Tsar Nicholas II--continued the tradition, but he required two eggs a year. He gave one to his wife and one to his mother. Faberge also made an egg to commemorate the last tsar's coronation. Inside the egg was a small golden replica of the coach Nicholas rode that day.

Carl Faberge's star had risen. He hired talented artisans to handle his commissions and expanded his business beyond Russia. He became Sweden's Court Goldsmith in 1897. In 1910, he got the same position in Russia. Unfortunately, seven years later, the monarchy in Russia was destroyed. Shortly after, many of the Romanovs were murdered. Rather than see if the Bolsheviks would be kind to the man who supplied bejeweled Easter eggs to Russian royal family, Carl went into exile. He died in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 24, 1920.

Today, Carl Faberge's objects are kept in museums and auctioned to wealthy collectors. Some of them are worth millions of dollars. What's more important is their historical significance. Many of these eggs belonged to a family that went from being the most important family in Russia to being slaughtered by angry revolutionaries.


Faberge-Art, retrieved 12/13/10,

The World of Peter Carl Faberge, retrieved 12/13/10

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ernest Hemingway's Childhood

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway circa 1905
Ernest Hemingway is one of the most beloved and talented American authors of all time. He was born on July 21, 1899 to Dr. Clarence Hemingway and his wife, Grace Hall Hemingway. Ernest was born in the house that was built by his grandfather on North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. He had one older sister at the time of his birth and would eventually have three more sisters and one brother.

Ernest grew up in Oak Park, which was a tight knit religious community. Ernest would refer to the town later in life as a place that contained “wide lawns and narrow minds.” His mother taught music to the children in the community and she also taught music to her children. Ernest took voice lessons and learned to play the cello from his mother. However, the influence that Grace Hall Hemingway had on her son was not all good.

Until Ernest was six years old, his mother dressed him and his older sister Marcelline as twins, which they were not. The oddest thing about this behavior was that she would either dress them both as girls or both as boys. Grace was also exempt from doing household chores, which Clarence would take care of for her, despite his work as a doctor. Rumor has it that Grace nagged her husband relentlessly. Ernest apparently blamed his father’s suicide in 1928 on his mother. He said later in life that “My mother is an all time all American *expletive deleted* and she would make a pack mule shoot himself; let alone poor bloody father.”

Ernest’s relationship with his father was quite different from the one he had with his mother. Clarence spent a lot of time teaching his son how to fish and hunt in the Lake Michigan area. The Hemingways spent their summers at Windemere, the family’s summer home. Ernest spent that time fishing and hunting with his father or on his own. His love for the outdoors would continue throughout his life.

Ernest Hemingway attended the Oak Park public schools. He kept notebooks and journals as he got older and by the time he was in high school, it had become obvious that Ernest wanted to be a writer. He wrote for the school’s newspaper, the “Trapeze” and he also wrote for the school’s yearbook, the Tabula. Ernest also played several sports in high school. He wasn’t bad, but he was never a star athlete either. He graduated high school at the age of seventeen.

After Ernest’s graduation his parents expected him to go off to college, but he had different plans. He immediately went to work at the Kansas City Star. That was the start of his long and prolific career as a journalist and an author.