A new exhibit on the House of Fabergé at the Victoria and Albert Museum features a surprisingly religious work of art.
The UK’s latest blockbuster exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum is about the House of Fabergé and its London connections. What I don’t expect to see from this prolific Russian atelier is anything religious. Even the famed Fabergé Easter eggs are hardly a celebration of this supremely holy day. Very few of them have any sacred associations at all.
It was a real pleasure, then, to see that the largest item in the exhibition is an icon of the Holy Virgin, Mother of God. Better still, it was commissioned by the top Catholic family in the complicated English hierarchy. The 15th Duke of Norfolk was recognized as being England’s senior Catholic when he acquired this icon around 1900.
His family is now on to the 18th duke, who is as staunch a defender of the old faith as the rest of his family when they were persecuted over the centuries. The only trouble the 15th Duke of Norfolk had with this work out of art was that it had been sent from Russia by regular parcel post. The customs officials in England were suspicious about its silver content and insisted that it should be tested properly. By this stage in England’s history, they no longer had a problem with the imagery, though once upon a time the Madonna and Child was a prime focus for Reformation iconoclasts.
The virtual Museum of the Cross
The Museum of the Cross is the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has started an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum