Imitation of Life
The name of the cult romantic Douglas Sirk drama from the late fifties, seemed the perfect title for this blogpost, exploring the grey area where exquisite craftsmanship and fine art meet, in an effort to duplicate and eternalize nature's finest creations.
While the House of Fabergé may be most famous for its renowned jeweled eggs - delightful creations that have come to symbolize the wealth and power of the Russian Romanov dynasty, its most loyal customer – it is in fact a slightly lesser known Fabergé flower study that has recently become one of the most expensive items ever to be appraised by the Antiques Roadshow, at a whopping £1 million ($1.27 million). In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fabergé created delicate replicas of pansies, lilies of the valley, violets and other flowers that were often destined for glass display cabinets in the royal palaces of London and Moscow. Most are only a few inches high, crafted in gold, pearls and diamonds, and jade and so carefully made that you can see the veining in the leaves, the real fuzz used to augment an intricately crafted dandelion puff and the delicate strands of moss. The simple jars in which they were placed were fashioned from rock crystal in order to look like they were filled with water.
The work of New Jersey artist Vladimir Kanevsky is somewhat reminiscent of the Fabergé tradition, though his medium of choice is metal and clay, painted with painstaking detail. Kanevsky cites 18th-century European botanical prints as the inspiration behind his creations: lush hollyhocks, lilies of the valley, wild daisies and white hydrangeas (complete with insect bites and bent stems), you'd swear they were the real thing. Kanevsky's art has brought him worldwide fame resulting in a collaboration with historic porcelain manufacturer Meissen which yielded a limited edition of “eternal flowers” for the 300 year old company.
In the words of Egyptian Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy:
Give me artificial flowers - porcelain and metal glories - neither fading nor decaying, forms unaging. Flowers of the splendid gardens of another place, where Forms and Styles and Knowledge dwell. I love flowers made of glass or gold, true Art's true gifts, their painted hues more beautiful than nature's, worked in nacre and enamel, with perfect leaves and branches.