For the collector of Imperial Russian artifacts, there is a vast assortment of wonderful and exquisite items to choose from. The Russians' inherent love of beautiful objects produced glorious porcelains, brilliant jewel-like enamels, finely crafted works of gold and silver, jewlery with dazzling stones from rare green garnets to sparkling diamonds, fabrics and laces, dolls, unique wood carvings, and some of the world's loveliest pieces of glass. The choice is endless; even items used in everyday living often bore a special touch of carving, painting, texturing, or an unusual shape.
Life in Imperial Russian was often harsh and dreary, with it's long and bitterly cold winters, so it was natural that objects with bright colors, sparkling enamels, and jewels were sougth after to lend cheer to an otherwise difficult existence.
Before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russia had virtually no middle class. People either lived in extreme wealth or dire poverty. The wealthy class patronized purveyors of the enamels, porcelains, fine jewelry and paintings that collectors now treasure, and the peasant class brought us the carved wood, lacquer wares and other brightly carved pieces.
The 1917 revolution wiped out the Russian wealthy class and abruptly ended the flow of luxury goods. Many of the existing pieces found their way to Western Europe and America as Russian emigres sold them in order to live. In the 1920s the Bolsheviks, hard pressed for cash, sold tsarist treasures and other art and antiques to wealthy collectors and dealers, dispersing such rarities as most of the Imperial Easter Eggs created by Faberge for the tsars.
With the advent of glasnost and recent exhibits of Imperial Russian art and artifacts (including the Moscow Treasures and Traditions in the Seattle Convention Center and the Russian glass exhibit in New York's Corning Museum) there has been a resurgence of interest in Russian wares in the West. American furniture and fabric manufacturers are beginning to offer 'Russian Style' Furniture and textiles.
Pre-Revolutionary Russian pieces are choice and rare, and most prices reflect those facts. Even if you can't afford them, it is worth admiring the meticulous workmanship evident on these objects from the lost world of the tsars. - Marjorie Lou Ericksen
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