Objets de Vertu
A category for tiny decorative pieces noted for their fineness of material and craft, often reflecting considerable effort and finesse on the part of the maker. While such objects date from antiquity and appear in various world cultures, they are commonly associated with European customs of religious devotion and later, the consumption habits of aristocrats and nobles. The former category includes crucifixes, religious figurines, rosaries, and reliquaries, while the latter includes brooches, cameos, snuff boxes, statuettes, and watch pieces. Materials varied locally and over time, but enamel, gemstone, ivory, hard-stone, and precious metals were regularly used. Objects of vertu were often adorned with royal or aristocratic portraits, scenes from iconic paintings, historical events, flora or purely decorative forms. Perhaps the most prized examples today are the resplendent series of easter eggs made by the Russian House of Fabergé for Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.