The Russian Imperial Court was legendary for extravagance and splendor. Inexhaustible wealth allowed the Tsars to indulge their passions and triumphs in unequalled splendour. Opulent object d’art and stunning jewellery were commissioned as part of every day life.
It all came to a crushing end with the Russian revolution in 1917, but not before the legendary Easter eggs made by the House of Fabergé for Tsar Alexander III and Nicholas II had been created. The exquisite Easter gifts for the Tsars’ wives and mothers, numbered about 50, of which 43 have miraculously survived.
The first egg, known as the Hen Egg, was crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920). He definitely didn’t have omelettes in mind. The exterior is simply enameled but inside is a golden yolk, within which is a golden hen. (Obviously he believed the egg came before the chicken). Concealed inside the hen was a diamond miniature of the royal crown and a tiny ruby egg, both of which are now lost. The surprise element was now ‘hatched’.
The House of Fabergé was given complete freedom for the design, with only one condition – that each egg contained a surprise. Events and milestones in the Romanov dynasty provided inspiration for the designs. Each year the talents of Peter Carl Fabergé, together with his enterprise of 500 artisans and designers, achieved new heights of creativity and extravagance. The result was exquisite and unique!
The Coronation Egg contained a replica of the coronation coach. Originally, the surprise was a tiny egg-shaped emerald and diamond-set pendant placed inside the carriage, but it has since disappeared.
The Lilies of the Valley Egg has a mounted pearly button that twists to reveal the egg’s surprise – a portrait of Tsar nicholas II and his two eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana.
The most expensive Easter creation was the 1913 Winter Egg carved from rock crystal, embellished with platinum and diamonds to resemble frost. Its surprise is an exquisite platinum basket of wood anemones.
American heiress and philanthropist, Matilda Geddings Gray began collecting Fabergé pieces in 1933 and over the following years amassed one of the finest collections of Fabergé in the world. Currently, The Metropolitan Art Museum in New York is exhibiting three of the Fabergé eggs on long-term loan from The Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation.
The Danish Palaces Egg (1890) The egg opens and reveals a panel screen depicting watercolour paintings of Danish places and imperial yachts.
The Caucasus Egg (1893) commemorates the Imperial Hunting Lodge in the Caucasus. The surprise is the miniature paintings from the area which are revealed when opening 4 pearl bordered doors bearing a diamond set number of the year. The hinged top reveals a portrait of the Grand Duke.
Napoleonic Egg 1912. A folding screen of six miniatures of the Dowager Empress regiments is the surprise element.
The House of Fabergé Easter eggs reached a pinnacle of skilled and lavish craftsmanship and soon became sought after by the rich and famous.