By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
1:11 PM EST, December 20, 2011
A bequest from Washington, D.C. arts patron Jean Montgomery Riddell, who died last year at the age of 100, has enriched the holdings of the Walters Art Museum with more than 260 objects of enameled Russian silver from the 17th through early 20th centuries.
The Riddell collection includes items from the storied firm of Carl Fabergé.
"About 20 years ago, [Riddell] came to the museum and I showed her what we had of Russian works," said William Johnston, senior curator at large and director of the archives at the Walters. "We kept in touch. She had what is reputed to be one of the finest collections anywhere. We had nothing quite like it here, and she bequeathed it all to us."
Although there are none of the fabled Imperial Easter eggs from Fabergé in the collection (the Walters already has two of the 55 or so that have survived), the firm's extraordinary craftsmanship is well-represented by other works in the collection.
"There are seven or eight pieces made by Fabergé in St. Petersburg," Johnston said. "There are 30 or 40 by Fabergé in Moscow, where, in the late 19th century, silversmiths revived styles of their 17th-century predecessors as a reaction against the Western influences in St. Petersburg."
The Walters plans to offer a touring exhibition featuring the Riddell collection in 2015. A dozen pieces are already on display at the museum.
Riddell, who studied at the Arts Students League in New York, developed an interest in Russian enamels after inheriting several after the death of her husband, Richard J. Riddell, in the 1960s.
"Jean Riddell believed that with our existing holdings of Russian art and our commitment to past exhibitions in the field, the Walters would make a great home for her collection," museum director Gary Vikan said.