All text, and images © 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Marie Betteley

 Can you Imagine spending your formative years living on the grounds of Mrs. Post's 24 acre estate, Hillwood, surrounded by her significant collection of  European and Imperial Russian art?

 My friend Marie Betteley did just that. 

Although Marie was Born in Paris, she and her family moved from Europe to Washington D.C.  where her father, Roy D.R. Betteley, was director of the  Hillwood Museum. Marie is now jewelry dealer, specializing in Imperial Russian decorative arts, jewels and Fabergé, Marie is a leading expert in the field.  Is this any surprise?  Her French Mother and her Mother's family where jewelry dealers, and her Father was a noted scholar.

 The Pine Cone Egg, a jeweled, and guilloche enamel Easter egg
with a silver and  enamel automaton elephant surprise inside.

Marie began her career as gemologist and Head of Christie's Russian Department in America.  After ten years at Christie’s, she started her own company. She  opened a Gallery on East 56th Street in New York. Today, Marie consults for auction houses, museums and private collectors worldwide. She is a regular exhibitor in New York, on Madison Avenue and 67th street, and in occasional shows around the country.

I asked Marie to tell us about the Russian
tradition of decorated eggs as ornaments and gifts.

Marie Said:

The egg, a symbol of Easter, has long been associated with Christianity and spirituality.
Nowhere was this symbol more prevalent than in Russia.  There, eggs were exchanged as early as the 10th century to coincide with the spread of Christianity from Byzantium to Kiev. As symbols of the resurrection of Christ, they represented hope and new life. The celebration of Easter is the most important event of the Russian Orthodox calendar.
The decoration of Easter eggs ranged from simple geometric forms and hand painted flowers on natural eggshell or wood, to more sophisticated designs on man-made or precious materials.

Encouraged by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Russian discovered the formula for making porcelain in 1741. Elizabeth then founded the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg and launched a craze for porcelain. The porcelain Easter egg was introduced to the Russian court shortly thereafter. Usually small and painted with a genre or New Testament scene, each egg had two openings to accommodate a ribbon or braided cord. By the mid-19th century, designs included monograms of the Imperial couple, the Russian coat of Arms, numerous Orthodox Saints, Prophets, painted landscapes, birds and a wide variety of flowers. The best were made in St. Petersburg’s Imperial Porcelain Factory, as seen above.

While jeweled eggs are closely associated with Russia’s most famous jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé, no one knows exactly who first fashioned eggs, both large and small, out of gold or other precious materials. Eggs encrusted in gems were made in both Europe and Russia in the 18th century, but few examples survive.

Rare Russian Gold Cross Suspended from an Egg-Shaped Brooch, the brooch, Victorian bowenite, circa 1870, the Cross, Moscow, 1899-1908.  (enlarged)

By far the most popular and highly prized gift to exchange on Easter Sunday was the miniature egg pendant.  These were most loved by their recipients as they could be worn on a necklace, and passed down for generations. 

As years passed, these small jewels in the round were attached in succession on a neck chain, like charms on a bracelet. Materials ranged from wood and glass to silver and porcelain, but the finest were made of gold with or without enamel or jewels.

Image enlarged
Russian Gold Rooster Pendant Suspending Three Miniature Eggs, 1899-1904

A Russian
Guilloché Enamelled Egg in Hoop by Fabergé, circa 1900

Image from the Forbes Collection Image reduced

By the end of the Romanov dynasty, across the Russian empire, eggs decorated homes, churches and palaces. A photograph of Empress Alexandra’s bedroom in the Winter Palace shows fifteen Easter eggs hanging from ribbons along rows of icons.

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 brought an end to the imperial era in Russia. Today, Russian eggs from this period are valued for their rarity, beauty and historical significance.

Marie is currently writing a book about Russian Jewelry, Beyond Faberge
There was thriving jewelry industry in Russia. The Russians
are known for their love of color, and  fine  gems.
It is a  much  bigger story, and who better suited to tell it than Marie?

Marie sells the most exquisite jewels, she has a very discerning eye.
As appraiser, auction consultant and graduate gemologist (GIA), Marie E. Betteley is also happy to provide selected Appraisal Services. Contact her, by clicking on the bell below.

1 comment:

little augury said...

Honest, never the greedy sort I would have the guiillcohé enamelled egg in hoop of all shown here. The small pendants are just delightful (very cadbury) That full loaded one at the Hermitage is just what I would suspect, very much. What an incredible place to grow up-probably learned to be very well behaved at an early age. I can imagine you have much to talk about when you come together-sounds like a wonderful book. pgt