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5 FABERGE' EASTER EGGS THAT HAVE MADE HISTORY

As part of Shira Ghaffari’s series of articles exploring the jewelry world, we have selected, for their extraordinary craftsmanship and history, our favorite Fabergé Easter eggs.


In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Easter, called “Pascha", is the greatest of all holy days and as such it is called the "feast of feasts”.

Celebrations take place in spring time and in Russia it has always been custom to gift vividly decorated eggs, called “Pisanki", as a symbol of rebirth after a cold and monotonous winter.

Made usually from wood, porcelain or stone, in the late XIX century they started to appear amongst the Russian elite in silver and gold set with precious stones: at a first glance they seemed quite simple, but inside hid luxurious presents that were meant to amaze the receiver.

A Russian porcelain Easter egg

A Russian porcelain Easter egg, ca.1870.

 

Of all, the ones crafted by, Russian master jeweller, Carl Fabergé, are certainly the most recognisable and exquisite: between 1885 and 1917 he created true objets d’art that became an icon of skilful goldsmith mastery.

During this period, the fashion of richly decorated and complexly engineered easter eggs reached its peak and Carl Fabergé was indisputably the one who created the most splendid examples: the result is a stunning collection, of which today we can count more than 50 pieces that have survived the test of time and are displayed regularly all over the world.

Fabergé workshop

Fabergé workshop, ca. 1903.

Son of Baltic German jeweller Gustav Fabergé, Peter Carl Fabergé was born in in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1846. Heir to the House of Fabergé, founded by his father in 1842 in St. Petersburg, Carl at the age of 36 became popular, when at the Pan-Russian Exhibition held in Moscow in 1882, was awarded the gold and St. Stanisias medals for superb craftsmanship.

Such event made the House of Fabergé gain the favor of Russia's Imperial Court, a strong bond that will last Carl Faberge’s lifetime and give the world some of the most beautiful jewellery pieces ever created.

Peter Carl Fabergé

Peter Carl Fabergé.

Tsar Alexander III & Empress Maria Fjodorovna

Tsar Alexander III & Empress Maria Fjodorovna.

From this fortunate collaboration, we have selected our top 5 favorite Easter eggs, that have made history for their extraordinary craftsmanship:

The Hen Egg, 1885.
"Hen" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Hen" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1885.

Commissioned by Tsar Alexander III, in 1885, the “Kurochka”, hen egg, was the first piece crafted by Carl Fabergé as a gift to the Emperor’s wife, Maria Fjodorovna, known before her marriage as Princess Dagmar of Denmark.

The Russian jeweller chose, as his inspiration, a 17th century French Easter egg that belonged to the Danish Royal family: although the resemblance is quite evident, the two pieces couldn’t be more different.

Golden Egg with Hen, Royal Danish family collection

Golden Egg with Hen, Royal Danish family collection, ca.1720.

Carl Fabergé decided to finish the outer layer of the egg with a texturised white enamel to give a natural effect and to mimic the yolk used matte yellow gold.

Inside, the piece housed a multicoloured gold hen containing a Russian imperial crown adorned with a detachable egg shaped ruby pendant, often worn by the Empress: unfortunately the whereabouts of the two small precious jewels are currently unknown.

The gift was so well received by Empress Maria Fjodovrna, that from that moment onward Faberge’s eggs became a tradition: ordered a year in advance, given their complexity, they were immediately put into production and delivered to the Tsar by Easter of the following year.

The Renaissance Egg, 1894.
"Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1894.

The Renaissance Egg, was the last piece gifted to Empress Maria Fjodovrna by Tsar Alexander III in 1894, just a few months before his death. For the design, Carl Fabergé, in true historicism style, common during that time, draw inspiration from the past, favoring the renaissance period.

Left: Agate Casket, Le Roy. Right: "Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

Left: Agate Casket, Le Roy. Right: "Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

Like for the Hen egg, he chose to reimagine an old masterpiece: a 17th century box, crafted by master jeweller, Le Roy, belonging to the Grunes Gewolbe collection in Dresden, where Carl Fabergé spent several years in his youth.

The egg was crafted by jeweller Mikhail Perkhin, under Fabergé’s supervision, from carved agate with an enamelled gold frame set with rubies and white diamonds; the top displayed the year of production set in white diamonds.

The surprise is today lost, but it has been speculated that, most probably, might be the Resurrection Egg, made too by Perkhin at Fabergé in 1894.

The theory, formulated by Mr. Christopher Forbes, vice chairman of the Forbes Publishing company and important art collector, claims that given the perfectly fitting shape, matching style, same author, the fact that no records show the presence of the piece in Faberge’s inventory and that it was part of Maria Fjodovrna’s collection, the Resurrection Egg must be the missing element.

The small jewel was made from two pieces of egg shaped Rock Crystal held together by a gold frame set with white diamonds, inside polychrome statues depicted Jesus rising from his tomb.

The base, in renaissance style, was set with pearls: another proof that corroborates Mr. Forbes’s theory, as Faberge’s Renaissance Egg invoice mentioned pearls, which are only present on this piece.

"Resurrection" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

"Resurrection" Easter egg, House of Fabergé. 1894.

Mr. Christopher Forbes.

Mr. Christopher Forbes.

The rosebud Egg, 1895.
"Rosebud" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Rosebud" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1895.

After Tsar Alexander III’s death, the house of Faberge’s started to craft two eggs per year: one for Dowager Empress Maria Fjodovrna and one for Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, Tsar Nicholas II’s wife, who ascended the throne in 1894.

The first egg, commissioned by the newly appointed Tsar, was the Rosebud Egg, in 1895: made by jeweller Mikhail Perkhin, under Fabergé’s supervision, it was inspired by the rose garden of Rosenhöhe, in Darmstadt, which Empress Aleksandra, formerly known as Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, missed dearly.

Tsar Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II.

Empress Aleksandra Fjodorovna

Empress Aleksandra Fjodorovna.

The egg, finished in red enamel with cupid arrow details set with white diamonds featured at its apex a miniature portrait of the young Emperor under a table-cut diamond.

Inside, a yellow-enamelled rosebud was placed on a cushion, the jewel resembled a yellow China tea rose, the most valued in the Empress’s native Germany.

The Rosebud Egg, was also the first Faberge’s masterpiece to feature a mechanical movement: a small lever on the flower revealed two surprises that were originally contained, today they are missing, but from a old photograph we know that they were a golden crown, with diamonds and rubies, and a cabochon ruby pendant.

Video of the "Rosebud egg", copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

The Lilies of the valley egg, 1898.
"Lilies of the valley" Easter egg, House of Fabergé
"Lilies of the valley" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1898.

Alexander III’s easter gifts to his wife, Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, were meant to show his profound love, often through such displays of refined and extravagant goldsmith craftsmanship he was able to convey his sentiment more clearly than with words: the Lilies of the Valley Egg, commissioned in 1898, is a clear example of a unique declaration of love.

Created by the House of Fabergé, under the supervision of Carl Fabergé and Mikhail Perkhin, it’s an exquisite piece of Art Nouveau style: the egg was finished in light pink enamel with guilloché decoration and covered with pearls set with white diamonds that mimic morning lilies shining in the morning mist, the base part featured enameled leaves skillfully shaped to give the whole piece a delicate and natural feel.

Designed in a time where exotic flowers were quite fashionable, Fabergé preferred to be more subtle, choosing lilies to symbolize purity, youth and innocence: moreover they were the favorite flowers of Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna.

Mikhail Perkhin

Mikhail Perkhin.

As another symbol of love, three enamel portraits, of respectively Tsar Alexander III and princesses Olga and Tatiana, were hidden inside the egg: thanks to a simple mechanism, by pressing gently on a pearl button, they rose arranged as a clover.

The meticulous level of details full of meaning is said to have impressed Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, who cherished the egg with much passion.

Video of the "Lilies of the valley egg", copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

The bay tree egg, 1911.
"Bay tree" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Bay tree" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1911.

The Tsar, to maximize the effect of surprise for the Empresses, used to give Carl Fabergé total freedom in conceiving the traditional easter eggs, so it was imperative for the Russian jeweller to know well their tastes and desires. Scrupulous as he was, Carl Fabergé, was always able to create something unique that left everyone in amazement.

The Easter egg of 1911, is probably one of his finest accomplishments: the masterpiece was crafted under the supervision of Carl Fabergé, for Tsar Nicholas II who presented the egg to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fjodovrna on April 12th.

For the design, the Russian jeweller was, most probably, inspired by the Empress’s love for birds and the recurrence of the 30th anniversary of the Empress coronation, crowned by all Russia with bay leaves of love and gratitude.

The egg was based on an 18th-century French mechanical orange tree and it was incorrectly labeled as an orange tree for some time, before being finally confirmed as a bay tree after the original invoice from Fabergé was examined.

Video of the "Bay tree Easter egg" mechanism in action, copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

Turning a tiny lever disguised as a fruit, hidden among the leaves of the bay tree, activated the hinged circular top of the tree and a feathered songbird, rose and flapped its wings, turning its head and opening its beak singing.

The egg was made of smooth and luminous leaves, cut from Sayan nephrite jade, that formed a thick foliage adorned with sumptuous decorations of amethyst, citrine, pink diamonds and enamelled white flowers: it is undoubtedly an extraordinary piece of engineering and beauty.

Milan, 2021

Share this Article


SOURCES
  • Fabergé, Alexandre de Solodkoff, Edition Atlas, Paris, 1990.
  • Fabergé - Il gioielliere degli ultimi zar, La Venaria Reale, Silvana Editoriale, Milano, 2012.
  • Fabergé Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • The Royal Danish Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Christie's.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Federico Niki Vescovi fine jewelry advisor profile photo shira ghaffari executive team
Federico Niki Vescovi

Fine Jewelry Advisor & Operations Director

Born and raised in the fine jewelry world, after studying law, Federico decided to pursue is passion for the fine arts. He joined the firm in 2015 and over the years acquired valuable professional expertise helping international clients grow and strengthen their position in the fine jewelry market.

Federico's thirst for knowledge and desire to be constantly up-to-date on market trends and new technologies whilst protecting cultural heritage have made him, over the years, a resourceful advisor with talented strategic thinking.

 


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Back to a World of Jewelry
5 FABERGE' EASTER EGGS THAT HAVE MADE HISTORY

As part of Shira Ghaffari’s series of articles exploring the jewelry world, we have selected, for their extraordinary craftsmanship and history, our favorite Fabergé Easter eggs.


In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Easter, called “Pascha", is the greatest of all holy days and as such it is called the "feast of feasts”.

Celebrations take place in spring time and in Russia it has always been custom to gift vividly decorated eggs, called “Pisanki", as a symbol of rebirth after a cold and monotonous winter.

Made usually from wood, porcelain or stone, in the late XIX century they started to appear amongst the Russian elite in silver and gold set with precious stones: at a first glance they seemed quite simple, but inside hid luxurious presents that were meant to amaze the receiver.

A Russian porcelain Easter egg

A Russian porcelain Easter egg, ca.1870.

 

Of all, the ones crafted by, Russian master jeweller, Carl Fabergé, are certainly the most recognisable and exquisite: between 1885 and 1917 he created true objets d’art that became icons of skilful goldsmith mastery.

During this period, the fashion of richly decorated and complexly engineered easter eggs reached its peak and Carl Fabergé was indisputably the one who created the most splendid examples: the result is a stunning collection, of which today we can count more than 50 pieces that have survived the test of time and are displayed regularly all over the world.

Fabergé workshop

Fabergé workshop, ca. 1903.

Son of Baltic German jeweller Gustav Fabergé, Peter Carl Fabergé was born in in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1846. Heir to the House of Fabergé, founded by his father in 1842 in St. Petersburg, Carl at the age of 36 became popular, when at the Pan-Russian Exhibition held in Moscow in 1882, was awarded the gold and St. Stanisias medals for superb craftsmanship.

Such event made the House of Fabergé gain the favor of Russia's Imperial Court, a strong bond that will last Carl Faberge’s lifetime and give the world some of the most beautiful jewellery pieces ever created.

Peter Carl Fabergé

Peter Carl Fabergé.

Tsar Alexander III & Empress Maria Fjodorovna

Tsar Alexander III & Empress Maria Fjodorovna.

From this fortunate collaboration, we have selected our top 5 favorite Easter eggs, that have made history for their extraordinary craftsmanship:

The Hen Egg, 1885.
"Hen" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Hen" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1885.

Commissioned by Tsar Alexander III, in 1885, the “Kurochka”, hen egg, was the first piece crafted by Carl Fabergé as a gift to the Emperor’s wife, Maria Fjodorovna, known before her marriage as Princess Dagmar of Denmark.

The Russian jeweller chose, as his inspiration, a 17th century French easter egg that belonged to the Danish Royal family: although the resemblance is quite evident, the two pieces couldn’t be more different.

Golden Egg with Hen, Royal Danish family collection

Golden Egg with Hen, Royal Danish family collection, ca.1720.

Carl Fabergé decided to finish the outer layer of the egg with a texturised white enamel to give a natural effect and to mimic the yolk used matte yellow gold.

Inside, the piece housed a multicoloured gold hen containing a Russian imperial crown adorned with a detachable egg shaped ruby pendant, often worn by the Empress: unfortunately the whereabouts of the two small precious jewels are currently unknown.

The gift was so well received by Empress Maria Fjodovrna, that from that moment onward Faberge’s eggs became a tradition: ordered a year in advance, given their complexity, they were immediately put into production and delivered to the Tsar by Easter of the following year.

The Renaissance Egg, 1894.
"Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1894.

The Renaissance Egg, was the last piece gifted to Empress Maria Fjodovrna by Tsar Alexander III in 1894, just a few months before his death. For the design, Carl Fabergé, in true historicism style, common during that time, draw inspiration from the past, favouring the renaissance period.

Left: Agate Casket, Le Roy. Right: "Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

Left: Agate Casket, Le Roy. Right: "Renaissance" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

Like for the Hen egg, he chose to reimagine an old masterpiece: a 17th century box, crafted by master jeweller, Le Roy, belonging to the Grunes Gewolbe collection in Dresden, where Carl Fabergé spent several years in his youth.

The egg was crafted by jeweller Mikhail Perkhin, under Fabergé’s supervision, from carved agate with an enamelled gold frame set with rubies and white diamonds; the top displayed the year of production set in white diamonds.

The surprise is today lost, but it has been speculated that, most probably, might be the Resurrection Egg, made too by Perkhin at Fabergé in 1894.

The theory, formulated by Mr. Christopher Forbes, vice chairman of the Forbes Publishing company and important art collector, claims that given the perfectly fitting shape, matching style, same author, the fact that no records show the presence of the piece in Faberge’s inventory and that it was part of Maria Fjodovrna’s collection, the Resurrection Egg must be the missing element.

Mr. Christopher Forbes.

Mr. Christopher Forbes.

"Resurrection" Easter egg, House of Fabergé.

"Resurrection" Easter egg, House of Fabergé. 1894.

The small jewel was made from two pieces of egg shaped Rock Crystal held together by a gold frame set with white diamonds, inside polychrome statues depicted Jesus rising from his tomb.

The base, in renaissance style, was set with pearls: another proof that corroborates Mr. Forbes’s theory, as Faberge’s Renaissance Egg invoice mentioned pearls, which are only present on this piece.

The rosebud Egg, 1895.
"Rosebud" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Rosebud" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1895.

After Tsar Alexander III’s death, the house of Faberge’s started to craft two eggs per year: one for Dowager Empress Maria Fjodovrna and one for Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, Tsar Nicholas II’s wife, who ascended the throne in 1894.

The first egg, commissioned by the newly appointed Tsar, was the Rosebud Egg, in 1895: made by jeweller Mikhail Perkhin, under Fabergé’s supervision, it was inspired by the rose garden of Rosenhöhe, in Darmstadt, which Empress Aleksandra, formerly known as Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, missed dearly.

Tsar Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II.

Empress Aleksandra Fjodorovna

Empress Aleksandra Fjodorovna.

The egg, finished in red enamel with cupid arrow details set with white diamonds, featured at its apex a miniature portrait of the young Emperor under a table-cut diamond.

Inside, a yellow-enamelled rosebud was placed on a cushion, the jewel resembled a yellow China tea rose, the most valued in the Empress’s native Germany.

The Rosebud Egg, was also the first Faberge’s masterpiece to feature a mechanical movement: a small lever on the flower revealed two surprises that were originally contained, today they are missing, but from a old photograph we know that they were a golden crown, with diamonds and rubies, and a cabochon ruby pendant.

Video of the "Rosebud egg", copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

The Lilies of the valley egg, 1898.
"Lilies of the valley" Easter egg, House of Fabergé
"Lilies of the valley" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1898.

Alexander III’s easter gifts to his wife, Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, were meant to show his profound love, often through such displays of refined and extravagant goldsmith craftsmanship he was able to convey his sentiment more clearly than with words: the Lilies of the Valley Egg, commissioned in 1898, is a clear example of a unique declaration of love.

Created by the House of Fabergé, under the supervision of Carl Fabergé and Mikhail Perkhin, it’s an exquisite piece in Art Nouveau style: the egg was finished in light pink enamel with guilloché decoration and covered with pearls set with white diamonds that mimic morning lilies shining in the morning mist, the base part featured enameled leaves skillfully shaped to give the whole piece a delicate and natural feel.

Designed in a time where exotic flowers were quite fashionable, Fabergé preferred to be more subtle, choosing lilies to symbolize purity, youth and innocence: moreover they were the favorite flowers of Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna.

Mikhail Perkhin

Mikhail Perkhin.

As another symbol of love, three enamel portraits, of respectively Tsar Alexander III and princesses Olga and Tatiana, were hidden inside the egg: thanks to a simple mechanism, by pressing gently on a pearl button, they rose arranged as a clover.

The meticulous level of details full of meaning is said to have impressed Empress Aleksandra Fjodovrna, who cherished the egg with much passion.

Video of the "Lilies of the valley egg", copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

The bay tree egg, 1911.
"Bay tree" Easter egg, House of Fabergé

"Bay tree" Easter egg, House of Fabergé, 1911.

The Tsar, to maximize the effect of surprise for the Empresses, used to give Carl Fabergé total freedom in conceiving the traditional easter eggs, so it was imperative for the Russian jeweller to know well their tastes and desires. Scrupulous as he was, Carl Fabergé, was always able to create something unique that left everyone in amazement.

The Easter egg of 1911, is probably one of his finest accomplishments: the masterpiece was crafted under the supervision of Carl Fabergé, for Tsar Nicholas II who presented the egg to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fjodovrna on April 12th.

For the design, the Russian jeweller was, most probably, inspired by the Empress’s love for birds and the recurrence of the 30th anniversary of the Empress coronation, crowned by all Russia with bay leaves of love and gratitude.

The egg was based on an 18th-century French mechanical orange tree and it was incorrectly labeled as an orange tree for some time, before being finally confirmed as a bay tree after the original invoice from Fabergé was examined.

Video of the "Bay tree Easter egg" mechanism in action, copyright of the Link of Times Foundation.

Turning a tiny lever disguised as a fruit, hidden among the leaves of the bay tree, activated the hinged circular top of the tree and a feathered songbird, rose and flapped its wings, turning its head and opening its beak singing.

The egg was made of smooth and luminous leaves, cut from Sayan nephrite jade, that formed a thick foliage adorned with sumptuous decorations of amethyst, citrine, pink diamonds and enamelled white flowers: it is undoubtedly an extraordinary piece of engineering and beauty.

Milan, 2021

Share this Article


SOURCES
  • Fabergé, Alexandre de Solodkoff, Edition Atlas, Paris, 1990.
  • Fabergé - Il gioielliere degli ultimi zar, La Venaria Reale, Silvana Editoriale, Milano, 2012.
  • Fabergé Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • The Royal Danish Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Christie's.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Federico Niki Vescovi fine jewelry advisor profile photo shira ghaffari executive team
Federico Niki Vescovi

Fine Jewelry Advisor & Operations Director

Born and raised in the fine jewelry world, after studying law, Federico decided to pursue is passion for the fine arts. He joined the firm in 2015 and over the years acquired valuable professional expertise helping international clients grow and strengthen their position in the fine jewelry market.

Federico's thirst for knowledge and desire to be constantly up-to-date on market trends and new technologies whilst protecting cultural heritage have made him, over the years, a resourceful advisor with talented strategic thinking.

 


OUR ORDER MANAGEMENT SERVICE


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BODY: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum."