The World Of fabergé

The Imperial Eggs

The celebrated series of 50 Imperial Easter eggs was created for the Russian Imperial family from 1885 to 1916 when the company was run by Peter Carl Fabergé. These creations are inextricably linked to the glory and tragic fate of the last Romanov family. They were the ultimate achievement of the renowned Russian jewellery house and must also be considered the last great commissions of objets d’art . Ten eggs were produced from 1885 to 1893, during the reign of Emperor Alexander III; 40 more were created during the rule of his dutiful son, Nicholas II, two each year, one for his mother, the dowager, the second for his wife.

The series began in 1885 when Emperor Alexander III, through the intermediary of his uncle, Grand Duke Vladimir, commissioned an Easter egg from Fabergé as an Easter present for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. Initially planned by Fabergé to contain a diamond ring, the actual finished version, following specific instructions of the Emperor, included a ruby pendant of great value.

Fabergé Egg - Twelve Monograms, Also known as the Alexandra III portraits egg
Fabergé Egg – The Hen Egg, 1855
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection

The Hen Egg, 1885

Inspired by an 18th century original, the Hen Egg has an opaque white enamelled outer ‘shell’, opening with a twist to reveal a first surprise - a matt yellow gold yolk. This in turn contains an enamelled chased gold hen that once held a replica of the Imperial Crown with a precious ruby pendant egg within. The drop by itself cost more than half of the egg’s total price (both lost, being only known from an old photograph).

Renaissance Egg, 1894

Presented by Emperor Alexander III to his wife, Maria Feodorovna, this Renaissance style object was inspired by an oval agate casket by Le Roy in the Dresden Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vaults), the museum founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723. Cleverly transformed by Fabergé into an egg shape, it is made of cloudy agate, its cover applied with opaque white enamel gold trellis-work with a quatrefoil of diamonds and a ruby centre at each intersection. A red enamel band divides the two egg-halves. The top bears the date 1894 set in rose diamonds. This exact, artfully modified copy, is proof that Fabergé actually handled some of the works in the Green Vaults.
Fabergé Egg – Renaissance Egg, 1894
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection
Fabergé Egg – Rosebud Egg, 1895
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection

Rosebud Egg, 1895

This egg, applied with diamond-set Cupid’s arrows symbolizing Love, was the first of the series presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, a few months after their marriage. It is crafted from multi-coloured gold, decorated with bands of rose-cut diamonds and is covered with translucent red guilloché enamel. The rosebud surprise is of opaque yellow and green enamel. At its apex the egg has a miniature portrait of the young Emperor under a table-cut diamond, and at its base the date 1894. Further surprises contained within, a diamond-set crown and a ruby drop, are only known from an old photograph.

Coronation Egg, 1897

This, perhaps Faberge’s most iconic egg, was presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as a memento of her entry into Moscow on May 26th, day of their Coronation in the Uspensky Cathedral. Its outer shell is made of multi-coloured gold, embellished with translucent yellow guilloché enamel and black enamel double-headed eagles set with diamonds, a design recalling the heavy Cloth of Gold robe she wore at the ceremony. The jewelled monogram of the empress appears at the egg’s apex under a portrait diamond, with the date at the base. The egg opens to reveal a surprise in the form of a diamond-set enamelled gold miniature replica of the original 18th century carriage by Buckendahl which once contained an emerald drop, later replaced by a yellow briolette diamond (both lost). The 3 11/16 in. (9.4cm) coach took craftsman, Georg Stein 13 months to complete.
Fabergé Egg – Coronation Egg, 1897
Image courtesy the of Forbes Collection
Fabergé Egg – Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1898
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection
Fabergé Egg – Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1898 with miniature photos surprise
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection

Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1898

This pink guilloché enamel Art Nouveau egg, presented by Emperor Nicholas II to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, is virtually smothered with pearl- and diamond-set lilies of the valley sprays, her favourite flower, and is designed in her most-liked style. It stands on four cabriolet feet entwined with diamond-set foliage. The surprise, three miniatures of their eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, surmounted by a diamond- and ruby-set Imperial Crown, appears when one of the pearls is twisted.

The Duchess of Marlborough Egg, 1902

This clock-egg, among the finest among the 10-12 “non-Imperial” eggs, was acquired from Fabergé by Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, at the occasion of her visit to Russia in 1902. Based on Fabergé’s ‘Blue Serpent Clock Egg’ made for the Dowager Empress in 1895, it is now owned by Prince Albert of Monaco, and was in its time only such item commissioned by an American. Made of multi-coloured gold, rose-cut diamonds, pearls and translucent pink and white guilloché enamel, the clock has a revolving dial, with a diamond-set serpent indicating time.
Fabergé Egg – The Duchess of Marlborough Egg, 1902
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection
Fabergé Egg – Bay-Tree Egg, 1911
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection

Bay-Tree Egg, 1911

The egg, presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, is inspired by a French 18th century singing bird automaton. According to the Fabergé invoice, the bay tree comprises “325 nephrite leaves, 110 opalescent white enamel flowers, 25 diamonds, 20 rubies, 53 pearls, 219 rose-cut diamonds and one large rose-cut diamond”. When the clockwork automation is wound up and set in motion, a feathered bird appears, flaps its wings, turns its head, opens its beak and sings.

Nobel Ice Egg, 1914

This platinum and translucent white enamel egg is engraved with underglaze frost crystals. Its surprise is a lozenge-shaped diamond-set platinum and rock crystal watch similarly decorated. This egg was commissioned by Dr. Emanuel Nobel, nephew of Alfred Nobel, of Nobel prize fame. Emanuel Nobel, one of the leading figures of the oil industry at the time, was amongst Fabergé's most notable clients.
Fabergé Egg – Nobel Ice Egg, 1914
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection
Fabergé Egg – Order of St. George Egg, 1916
Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection

Order of St George Egg, 1916

The Order of St George Egg was presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Empress. After the onset of The Great War, precious materials were rare: this, one of Faberge’s two last completed eggs, is of silver and mat opalescent white enamel with no further embellishments. It is set with miniature portraits of Nicholas II and of his son, Alexei, concealed beneath the Badge of the Order of St. George and a silver medal of the Order respectively. This much coveted order, only awarded for great bravery on the Front, was bestowed upon the Emperor on October 25, 1916. It is the only egg that left Russia during the Revolution, accompanying the Dowager Empress into exile.
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