Fabergé egg

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The Moscow Kremlin egg, 1906.

A Fabergé egg is considered to be any one of the sixty-nine[1] jeweled eggs made by Peter Carl Fabergé and his assistants between 1885 and 1917. Fifty of those eggs—known as the Imperial Fabergé Easter eggs—were made and presented to Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia,[2] initially as gifts for their wives, the Tsarinas. At that time, a tradition was started within the royal Russian family that included making a jeweled egg to commemorate Holy Days and special celebrations.

Each Fabergé egg is custom made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with combinations of enamel and gemstones. Every egg is unique and the designs, at least initially, included a surprise inside.

Contents

The name Fabergé Egg has become synonymous with luxury and opulence. Today they are valued not only as masterpieces of decorative art, but the original Imperial eggs are also regarded as part of the legacy and historical record connected to the last days of the Romanov Dynasty.

Bouquet of Lilies Clock egg.

History

In 1885, under the commission of Czar Alexander III of Russia, Carl Fabergé and his goldsmiths designed and constructed the first Imperial egg. It was presented as an Easter gift for the Tsar's wife Maria Fyodorovna.[3]

On the outside it looked like a simple egg of white enameled gold, but upon opening, it revealed a golden yolk. The yolk itself had a golden hen inside it, which in turn had a tiny crown with a ruby hanging inside, reminiscent of the matryoshka nesting dolls.

Empress Maria was so delighted by this gift that Alexander appointed Fabergé "Court Supplier" and commissioned an Easter gift each year thereafter, stipulating only that it be unique and contain a surprise. His son, Nicholas II of Russia continued the tradition, annually presenting an egg each spring to his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna as well as his then-widowed mother.

From 1885, the eggs were produced on a nearly annual basis. Once an initial design was approved, the work was carried out by an entire team of artisans under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé. Among the designers were Michael Perkhin, Henrik Wigström and Erik August Kollin. At the peak of his production Faberge employed hundreds of craftsmen in his St. Petersburg studio, however, it was his own ingenuity and inventiveness that drove the success of his business.

The Imperial eggs soon garnered international fame, as members of royalty in Europe became aware of them. Fabergé went on to make fifteen more (known) eggs for private clients. Among them were a series of twelve Easter eggs commissioned by Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch, a Siberian gold mine industrialist. These eggs were not as extravagant as the Imperial eggs, and were not as unique in design; they often copied the originals.

With the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the eggs were ultimately scattered throughout the world; some were lost or destroyed; others were later rediscovered and purchased by collectors.

List of Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs

  • 1885 Hen
  • 1886 Hen with Sapphire Pendant
  • 1887 Blue Serpent Clock
  • 1888 Cherub with Chariot
  • 1889 Necessaire
  • 1890 Danish Palaces
  • 1891 Memory of Azov
  • 1892 Diamond Trellis
  • 1893 Caucasus
  • 1894 Renaissance
  • 1895 Rosebud
  • 1895 Twelve Monograms
  • 1896 Revolving Miniatures
  • 1896 Alexander III Portraits
  • 1897 Coronation
  • 1897 Doweger (or Pelican)
  • 1898 Lilies of the Valley
  • 1898 Mauve
  • 1899 Bouquet of Lilies Clock
  • 1899 Pansy
  • 1900 Trans-Siberian Railway
  • 1900 Cockerel
  • 1901 Basket of Wild Flowers
  • 1901 Gatchina Palace
  • 1902 Clover Leaf
  • 1902 Empire Nephrite
  • 1903 Peter the Great
  • 1903 Royal Danish
  • 1904 No eggs known
  • 1905 No eggs known
  • 1906 Moscow Kremlin
  • 1906 Swan
  • 1907 Rose Trellis
  • 1907 Cradle with Garlands
  • 1908 Alexander Palace
  • 1908 Peacock
  • 1909 Standart Yacht
  • 1909 Alexander III Commemorative
  • 1910 Colonnade
  • 1910 Alexander III Equestrian
  • 1911 Fifteenth Anniversary
  • 1911 Bay Tree
  • 1912 Czarevich
  • 1912 Napoleonic
  • 1913 Romanov Tercentenary
  • 1913 Winter
  • 1914 Mosaic
  • 1914 Grisaille
  • 1915 Red Cross with Triptych
  • 1915 Red Cross with Imperial Portraits
  • 1916 Steel Military
  • 1916 Order of St. George
  • 1917 Karelian Birch
  • 1917 Constellation
† Indicates missing egg

Other Imperial eggs

  • 1885-1889 Resurrection
  • 1899-1903 Spring Flowers

List of Fabergé Kelch eggs

  • 1898 Kelch Hen
  • 1899 Twelve Panel
  • 1900 Pine Cone
  • 1901 Apple Blossom
  • 1902 Rocaille
  • 1903 Kelch Bonbonnière
  • 1904 Kelch Chanticleer

Other Fabergé eggs

  • 1885-1891 Blue Enamel Ribbed
  • 1899-1903 Scandinavian
  • 1902 Duchess of Marlborough
  • 1902 Rothschild
  • 1907 Youssoupov
  • 1914 Nobel Ice
  • 1917 Night
  • Unknown date Lapis Lazuli

Location of eggs

Location of the Fabergé eggs Number
Imperial: 54
Kremlin Armory Museum, (Moscow, Russia) 10
Viktor Vekselberg collection, (Russia) (formerly Forbes) 11
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, (Richmond, Virginia, USA) 5
New Orleans Museum of Art, (New Orleans, Louisiana, USA) 3
Royal Collection, (London, UK) 3
Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Foundation, (Switzerland) 2
Hillwood Museum, (Washington, D.C., USA) 2
Walters Art Museum, (Baltimore, Maryland, USA) 2
Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) 1
Albert II of Monaco collection, (Monte-Carlo, Monaco) 1
Russian National Museum, (Moscow, Russia) 1
Fersman Mineralogical Institute, (Moscow, Russia) 1
Private Collection 4
Location Unknown 8
Kelch: 7
Viktor Vekselberg collection, (Russia) (formerly Forbes) 2
Royal Collection, (London, UK) 1
Private Collection 4
Others: 8
Viktor Vekselberg collection, (Russia) (formerly Forbes) 2
Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) 1
Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Foundation, (Switzerland) 1
Russian National Museum, (Moscow, Russia) 1
Private Collection 3

Of the sixty-nine known Fabergé eggs, only sixty-one have survived to the present day. The vast majority of them are housed in public museums, with the greatest number of them (thirty) existing in Russia. Of the fifty-four known Imperial eggs, only forty-six have survived.

Two additional eggs were planned and designed (but never delivered); they were the Constellation and Karelian Birch eggs of 1917. The Constellation Egg was the last Fabergé egg created. Due to the tumultuous events surrounding the Russian Revolution of 1917, the egg was never finished or presented to Tsar Nicholas' wife, the Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna.

In 2001 the Constellation was found at the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow, where it is currently on display. The egg is made of dark blue glass and is studded with diamonds. It is engraved with the star constellation of the day of Nicholas II's birth. It rests on a base made of quartz. The egg was supposed to have a silver rim around it, but lacks the original rim, clockwork motion and dial, as well as the larger part of the diamond stars, since it remained unfinished.[4]

The Karelian Birch egg was the second to last Fabergé egg made, before the Constellation. It was considered lost until 2001, when a private collector who had owned it since 1927 sold it to the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

The Karelian egg is made from birch panels set in a gold frame. The departure in design from previous eggs, which were far more ornate and gilded, was due to rising discontent with the monarchy and declining fortunes as a result of World War I. Its surprise was a miniature mechanical elephant, which could be wound with a small jewel-encrusted key.

Lost eggs

Of the eight lost Imperial eggs, photographs only exist of two[5]—the 1903 Royal Danish, and the 1909 Alexander III Commemorative eggs.

At the time of the Bolshevik Revolution only one, the 1916 Order of St. George egg, managed to escape, along with its owner, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna to Europe.[6] The rest remained in Petrograd.

Following the Revolution, the House of Fabergé was nationalized by the Bolsheviks, and the Fabergé family fled to Switzerland, where Peter Carl Fabergé died in 1920.[7] The Romanov palaces were ransacked and their treasures moved by order of Vladimir Lenin to the Kremlin Armoury. In the process of being sequestered away some were destroyed or lost.[7]

In 1927, in a bid to acquire more foreign currency, Joseph Stalin had many of the eggs sold after having them appraised by Agathon Fabergé. Between 1930 and 1933 fourteen Imperial eggs left Russia. Many of the eggs were sold to Armand Hammer, president of Occidental Petroleum and a personal friend of Lenin, whose father was founder of the United States Communist party, and Emanuel Snowman of the London antique dealers Wartski.

The largest gathering of Fabergé eggs, after the Kremlin Armoury's, was assembled by Malcolm Forbes, and displayed in New York City. The collection, totaling nine eggs, and including approximately 180 other Faberge objects d'art, was put up for auction at Sotheby's in February 2004 by Forbes's heirs. Before the auction even began the Forbes collection was purchased in its entirety by the oligarch Victor Vekselberg for a sum estimated between $90 and $120 million. The imperial eggs in the collection included the first egg, the Hen Egg and the famed Coronation Egg (featured in the 2004 film Ocean's 12.)[8]

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In November 2007, a Fabergé clock, named by Christie's auction house as the 'Rothschild Egg' sold at auction for £8.9 million ($17.4 million), including commission.[9] The sale price set two records for auction: first, for being the most expensive timepiece ever sold at auction and, the second, being the most expensive Russian object—including previous Faberge Eggs—ever sold at auction; even surpassing the 2002 $9.6 million sale of the 1913 Winter egg.

Gallery

Notes

  1. List of Fabergé eggs Mieks.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  2. Fabergé, The Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs (Skurlov, Proler, London, 1997, ISBN 0-90343-248-X), 90.
  3. The first Hen egg Mieks.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  4. 1917 Blue constellation Egg Mieks.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  5. Alan Farnham, 2004, Egg Hunting, Pro Division Forbes.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  6. Faberge - Treasures of Imperial Russia Treasuresofimperialrussia.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Faberge Eggs - the fate of the eggs Pbs.org. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  8. Pavel Romanov, 2007, Buying Putin's Indulgences Energytribune.com. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  9. The clock was previously documented and had been published in 1964 in L'Objet 1900 by Maurice Rheims, plate 29.

References

  • Faber, Toby. 2008. Fabergé's eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces that Outlived an Empire. London: Macmillan. ISBN 140006550X
  • Lowes, Will, and Christel Ludewig McCanless. 2001. Faberge eggs. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow. ISBN 0810839466
  • Solodkoff, A. von, and Christopher Forbes. 1984. Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé. New York: H.N. Abrams. ISBN 0810909332

External links

All links retrieved October 12, 2013.

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