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Faberge's Eggs

by Toby Faber

In Stradivari's Genius, Toby Faber charted the fascinating course of some of the world's most prized musical instruments. Now, in this enthralling new book, he tells the story of objects that are, to many, the pinnacle of the jeweler's art: the Fabergé imperial eggs.The Easter presents that Russia's last two czars gave to their czarinas have become synonymous with privilege, beauty, and an almost provocative uselessness. They are perhaps the most redolent symbols of the old empire's phenomenal craftsmanship, of the decadence of its court, and of the upheavals that brought about its inevitable downfall. Fabergé's Eggs is the first book to recount the remarkable story of these masterpieces, taking us from the circumstances that inspired each egg's design, through their disappearance in the trauma of revolution, to their eventual reemergence in the global marketplace.In 1885, Carl Fabergé created a seemingly plain white egg for Czar Alexander III to give to his beloved wife, Marie Fedorovna. It was the surprises hidden inside that made it special: a diamond miniature of the Imperial crown and a ruby pendant. This gift began a tradition that would last for more than three decades: lavishly extravagant eggs commemorating public events that, in retrospect, seem little more than staging posts on the march to revolution. Above all, the eggs illustrate the attitudes that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Romanovs: their apparent indifference to the poverty that choked their country, their preference for style over substance, and, during the reign of Nicholas II, their all-consuming concern with the health of the czarevitch Alexis, the sickly heir to the throne-a preoccupation that would propel them toward Rasputin and the doom of the dynasty. More than a superb new account of a classic tragedy, Fabergé's Eggs illuminates some fascinating aspects of twentieth-century history. The eggs' amazing journey from revolutionary Russia features a cast of characters including embattled Bolsheviks, acquisitive British royals, eccentric artifact salesmen, and such famous business and society figures as Arm and Hammer, Marjorie Merriweather Post, and Malcolm Forbes. Finally, Toby Faber tantalizingly suggests that some of the eggs long thought lost may eventually emerge.Darting from the palaces of a besieged Russia to the showcases of New York's modern mega-wealthy, Fabergé's Eggs weaves a story unparalleled in its drama and extravagance. Praise for Stradivari's Genius"Fascinating . . . lively . . . more enthralling, earthy and illuminating than any fiction could be."-The New York Times Book Review"A celebration of six instruments and the master craftsman who made them . . . [Faber] brings to the subject an infectious fascination with Stradivari's life and trade. . . . He writes with clarity and fluency."-Chicago Tribune"An extraordinary accomplishment and a compelling read. Like strange totems that cast an irresistible spell, these instruments bring out the best and the worst of those who would own them, and Faber deftly tells the stories in all their rich and surprising detail."-Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank"A worthy contribution to the ongoing legend of Stradivari."-Minneapolis Star Tribune"Fascinating, accessible, and enjoyable."-Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl EarringFrom the Hardcover edition.

Stradivari's Genius

by Toby Faber

"'Tis God gives skill, but not without men's hands: He could not make Antonio Stradivari's violins without Antonio."-George EliotAntonio Stradivari (1644--1737) was a perfectionist whose single-minded pursuit of excellence changed the world of music. In the course of his long career in the northern Italian city of Cremona, he created more than a thousand stringed instruments; approximately six hundred survive. In this fascinating book, Toby Faber traces the rich, multilayered stories of six of these peerless instruments-five violins and a cello-and the one towering artist who brought them into being.Blending history, biography, meticulous detective work, and an abiding passion for music, Faber embarks on an absorbing journey as he follows some of the most prized instruments of all time. Mysteries and unanswered questions proliferate from the outset-starting with the enigma of Antonio Stradivari himself. What made this apparently unsophisticated craftsman so special? Why were his techniques not maintained by his successors? How is it that even two and a half centuries after his death, no one has succeeded in matching the purity, depth, and delicacy of a Stradivarius?In Faber's illuminating narrative, each of the six fabled instruments becomes a character in its own right-a living entity cherished by artists, bought and sold by princes and plutocrats, coveted, collected, hidden, lost, copied, and occasionally played by a musician whose skill matches its maker's.Here is the fabulous Viotti, named for the virtuoso who enchanted all Paris in the 1780s, only to fall foul of the French Revolution. Paganini supposedly made a pact with the devil to transform the art of the violin-and by the end of his life he owned eleven Strads. Then there's the Davidov cello, fashioned in 1712 and lovingly handed down through a succession of celebrated artists until, in the 1980s, it passed into the capable hands of Yo-Yo Ma. From the salons of Vienna to the concert halls of New York, from the breakthroughs of Beethoven's last quartets to the first phonographic recordings, Faber unfolds a narrative magnificent in its range and brilliant in its detail. "A great violin is alive," said Yehudi Menuhin of his own Stradivarius. In the pages of this book, Faber invites us to share the life, the passion, the intrigue, and the incomparable beauty of the world's most marvelous stringed instruments.From the Hardcover edition.

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