The Link of Times collection, founded by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian entrepreneur, is made up of 4,000 works of decorative and fine arts, including works of gold and silver, paintings, porcelain, and bronze works.
The collection, which has evolved over the course of a decade and continues to grow, is being presented to the public for the first time in the magnificent Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, which was restored by the Link of Times.
The core of the exhibition is the work of the famous Russian jeweler Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), the court jeweler to the Russian Tsars. These works were purchased by Viktor Vekselberg in early 2004 from the heirs of the American newspaper magnate Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), who collected the Tsarist jewels for half a century. Thus, the famous Forbes collection was saved from being divided (items from the Forbes collection were first planned to be sold at an auction) and, in essence, from complete liquidation. The jewelry masterpieces, some of which were sold by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s-1930s, were brought back to Russia, thus marking the beginning of repatriation of Russia’s national artistic heritage. This collection is without a doubt one of the best in the world in terms of its size, its diversity, and the quality of its works, many of which belonged to the Russian royal family and members of other royal courts of Europe.
Obtaining the collection from Forbes marked a significant event in the history of Russian culture. As for the creation of Russia's first privately-owned museum of national importance, this was only the beginning. The Link of Times foundation became one of the key players on the secondary art market. For 10 years, the foundation's leader, Vladimir Voronchenko, personally sought out and purchased the works of Carl Fabergé and other significant Russian jewelers from the 16th-20th centuries at the world's top auction houses: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams, Phillips, Bukowskis, Dorotheum, etc. The foundation followed news of the Russian jeweler's masterpieces in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
The Link of Times' collection is presently on display in the staterooms of the Shuvalov Palace. The Museum's exhibitions use modern design techniques; they have been designed specifically for the Museum. The boundaries between onlookers and the works of art practically disappear thanks to the spacious and, at first glance, seemingly invisible display cases, and the artificial light transforms these works of art into multimedia objects.
The grand Blue Hall of the Shuvalov Palace features the peak of Fabergé’s creative works: the Imperial Easter Eggs. These eggs are evidence of the great talent and skill of Russian jewelers, stone-cutters, enamel masters and artists. These precious items, with intricate surprises inside, are especially valuable because they captured the important events in Russian history at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: the last coronation of the Russian Empire, the fifteen year anniversary of the reign of Nicholas II, and the war with Germany. In addition to the Imperial Eggs made for the last of the Romanovs, the Link of Times collection also includes Easter gifts made for representatives of the world's elite, such as the Duchess of Marlborough and Mrs. Kelch (the gold producer), which are just as impressive as their imperial rivals in terms of their luxury and complexity.
In addition to Fabergé’s works, items made by his contemporaries were purchased as well, such as the "Suppliers to the Highest Court" I. Khlebnikov, P. Ovchinnikov, and I. Sazikov, who created a wedding china set for Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, as well as the famous silversmiths O. Kurlyukov, A. Kuzmichev, and M. Semenova; the Bolin family jewelers; and the goldsmiths Spiegel, Keibel, and Han. These and other renowned Russian jewelers made precious icon frames, some of which belonged to famous historical figures. A collection of church items and pieces for personal worship fill the Gothic Hall of the Shuvalov Palace. The foundation's experts also managed to create a unique collection of works by the famous Russian "painter on enamel" Fedor Rückert. The collection has no equals in Russia in terms of its size and quality.
Visitors to the Shuvalov Palace will see the great variety of directions taken by Carl Fabergé, such as his rare “objets de fantaisie”, like the precious “pansies” in a small vase of rock crystal, as if filled with water, or the unique figure of a dancing man made in different-colored stones (Russian state museums have only six similar poly-stone block sculptures), as well as jewelry, accessories, valuable personal items, table clocks and picture frames demonstrating the widest palette of guilloché and enamel, and finally silver products in the “original Russian style".
Numerous works have been collected by the Link of Times foundation over the last ten years. According to Viktor Vekselberg, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Link of Times, all these years his staff has been engaged in “the search, acquisition, and repatriation of historically significant Russian works of art that have been held abroad.” These items include a miniature bonbonniere in the form of an egg which belonged to the Greek King George I, the brother of Russian Empress Maria Fyodorovna, rare items made for Baron Leopold de Rothschild, and other products of personal significance, such as an enameled gold clock in the form of a screen and decorated with watercolor portraits of the sons of Prince Valdemar of Denmark, the brother of Empress Maria Feodorovna.
Other kinds of decorative and fine arts are also represented in the Link of Times collection, which can be rightfully proud of its monumental paired vases with “malachite” background, being one of the best works of the Imperial Porcelain Factory. These vases, one of which depicts the palace grenadiers in the Throne Hall of the Winter Palace, and on the other the grenadiers in the Throne Hall of the Tuileries Palace, were presented by Emperor Nicholas I to Casimir-Louis-Victurnien de Rochechouart de Mortemart, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of France in Russia (1828-1830, 1833).
The Exhibition Room, the Knights Hall, and other rooms of the palace are decorated with paintings of famous Russian and European artists such as K. Makovsky, G. Semiradsky, I. Aivazovsky, K. Bryullov, Alexander Kharlamov, K. Korovin, L. Valtat, A. Marten, and A. Renoir. The Shuvalov Palace has been filled once again with art treasures, but now its doors will be open to the residents and guests of St. Petersburg.