|Two Faberge Easter eggs on display at the 1935 Russian art exhibition in Belgrave Square (Photo: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)|
"Russian Art Show"
(originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 3 Aug 1935)
The last pathetic relics of the luxury and splendour with which the pre-war Russian aristocracy loved to surround itself were recently on view at No. 1 Belgrave Square -- just two doors away from the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Kent , writes a London correspondent. Because of her Tsarist ancestry , the Duchess was called upon to perform the opening ceremony and make her first official speech in England since her marriage. This was one of the shortest on record. She simply smiled and said: "I have much pleasure in declaring the Exhibition open."
|The Duke and Duchess of Kent, ca. 1934 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)|
|Queen Marie of Romania wears Grand Duchess Vladimir's sapphire kokoshnik (Photo: Grand Ladies Site)|
|Flameng's 1894 portrait of Princess Zinaida Yusupopva wearing the "La Pelegrina" pearl (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
Perhaps the most enchanting section of all was that devoted to the work of Faberge, the famous jeweller of French descent who won favour at the court of Tsar Nicholas II, because of his ingenuity in devising the most extravagantly beautiful little toys and bibelots. Many of those which survived the downfall of Russia are now the property of Queen Mary, who delights also in their exquisite workmanship. There was a little crowd of women around the miniature jade piano , for instance, with its tiny ivory keys, and lid that opens and shuts perfectly. Then Faberge excelled in the production of Easter eggs; and for each of the great Russian Easter festivals, he used to think of some new idea to please the Tsar.
|Agathon Faberge, son of Carl Faberge, sits as he helps to arrange the Belgrave Square exhibition of 1935 alongside H.C. Bainbridge (Photo: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)|
|The Coronation Egg on display at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2004 (Photo: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)|
1. Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent (1906-1968). George was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom; Marina was the youngest daughter of Prince and Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. George and Marina married in November 1934 and established a home at No. 3, Belgrave Square. Their first two children, Edward and Alexandra, were born at No. 3.
2. Marina's mother, Princess Nicholas, was born Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (a son of Tsar Alexander II) and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (better known to history as Grand Duchess Vladimir). Moreover, Marina's paternal grandmother was Queen Olga of Greece, who was born Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia; she was a granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I.
3. You can read much more about the sapphire kokoshnik made by Cartier for Grand Duchess Vladimir (and later purchased by Queen Marie of Romania) in our post over here!
4. This is the pearl known as "La Pelegrina" (not to be confused with the more famous "La Peregrina"). The Cleopatra story is a bit of fantasy, because La Pelegrina was discovered in Central America in the 16th century. King Philip IV of Spain gave it to his daughter, Princess Maria Theresa, when she married King Louis XIV of France in 1660. By 1826, the pearl was in the collection of Princess Tatiana Yusupova, the wife of a Russian nobleman and a lady-in-waiting to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of Tsar Nicholas I). The pearl then passed to Tatiana's daughter, Princess Zinaida Yusupova, and her grandson, Prince Felix Yusupov (best known as one of the assassins of Rasputin). Felix sold the pearl in the 1950s.
5. Queen Mary purchased the miniature jade piano between 1922 and 1931. You can read more about the piece at the Royal Collection website.