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Russian Industrialist Buys Fabled Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs - 2004-02-05


The international auction house, Sotheby's, has announced that a Russian industrialist has bought the fabled Forbes collection of Faberge Imperial Easter eggs. The items bought include some of the world's most valuable works of art.

Sotheby's was scheduled to auction the legendary collection in late April. The late publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes spent a quarter of a century putting together the bejeweled enameled objects, including nine Imperial Easter eggs, commissioned by the Russian royal family from Faberge artisans. The star of the collection, known as the Coronation Egg, opens to reveal a miniature replica of Empress Alexandra's coach. Experts estimated that the more than 180 objects would sell for as much as $90 million at auction

But now Russian businessman Victor Vekselberg has purchased the collection with the intention of returning it to Russia.

Sotheby's vice chairman, David Redden, says the announcement was made simultaneously in New York and Moscow, where it was a major event. "The eggs, particularly Imperial Easter eggs, have a fascination and significance that goes beyond the great works of art," he said. "They are true symbols. What we thought was the most valuable of all the Imperial Easter eggs, we placed a pre-sale estimate of $18 million to $24 million. That is the highest estimate ever placed by an auction house on anything that was not a painting. So the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art was placed on a Russian work of art and I think the Russians really were very proud about that."

The House of Faberge created the first of 50 Imperial Easter eggs for the Russian royal family in 1885 and continued the tradition for more than 30 years. Eight of the original 50 are missing. The Forbes collection was second only to the 10 in the Kremlin Armory collection in Moscow.

Keeping the collection together, according to Sotheby's David Redden, is just one exciting aspect of the sale. "They will stay together, which is absolutely wonderful. And, of course, it is remarkable that they will be going home and Malcolm Forbes himself must be smiling because when he died 14 years ago, it would be hard for him to imagine then that a Russian would emerge that was able to afford to buy on the open market these extraordinary treasures and bring them home," he said.

In a statement released through Sotheby's, Mr. Vekselberg wrote that the Faberge egg collection represents "perhaps the most significant example of our cultural heritage outside of Russia." He said he knew he wanted to return the eggs to Russia as soon as he heard about the auction. The Forbes family calls the sale to a Russian "an astonishingly romantic ending to one of the great stories art history."