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June 27, 2013

An empire of luxury

Faberge's fortunes rose and fell with the Russian czar

(Continued)

The interplay of luxury and tragedy is especially poignant in the last gallery, which draws elements from the interior of a palace outside St. Petersburg where the Romanovs lived while their empire crumbled.

“This is where the family took refuge and spent their final days under house arrest,” Lahikainen said. “They spent most of their time surround by Faberge objects, religious icons and the royal Easter eggs.”

Some Faberge religious icons are grouped on a gallery wall, and the three remaining Easter eggs are also displayed here, in a darkened portion of the gallery that makes their brilliance even more apparent.

Each of the 50 eggs had a commemorative theme, and two of these celebrated Maria Feodorovna’s charity work, while a third commemorates the survival of the Romanovs’ son, Alexei, whose hemophilia had nearly killed him.

There are also a great number of Faberge frames in this gallery, with photographs of the Romanovs, which they distributed to promote their image as a “normal” family, Lahikainen said.

Clearly, no one was convinced that these were average Russians, and it is hard not to dwell on the Romanovs’ personal fates while looking at their faces from across a century of turbulent history.

A photo of Grand Duchess Tatiana, one of the czar’s daughters, is held in a Faberge frame that is shaped like a star, and was one of the few possessions the family took with them when they were forced to leave the palace.

“That’s one of the few possessions we can document with the Romanovs at the time of their mass murder in 1918,” Lahikainen said.

IF YOU GO

What: “Faberge Revealed”

When: Through Sept. 29. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open until 9:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month.

Where: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

Tickets: $5, which includes audio tour, in addition to museum admission. Regular museum admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors; $11 for students. Youths 16 and under and Salem residents free.

More information: www.pem.org or 866-745-1876

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