Arts of the Imperial Era--The Fabergé Eggs

As scholars and students of the late Romanov period know, Alexander III originated (1880s) the custom of presenting his wife, Empress Marie Feodorovna (née Princess Dagmar of Denmark,) with a Fabergé egg at Easter, one of the most beloved holidays in the Russian Orthodox calendar. The gift giving continued, with members of the court copying the custom of the monarchs; the studio of Fabergé thrived throughout the closing decade of the of 19th century and up to the Revolution. Peter Carl Fabergé, descendant of French Huguenots (Protestants,) fled France when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685; the family settled in Russia in the 19th century. Fabergé took control of the studio in 1870 and made his professional "breakthrough" in the mid-1880's with the famous eggs, some of them depicted on this page. Between 1886 and 1917, the studio (especially its two leading artists, Wigstron and Perchin) produced fifty-three imperial Easter egg,s presented first by Alexander III to Empress Marie and then by Nicholas II to both his mother and his wife. The eggs designed for Easter, 1917, were completed but not delivered. (Forbes, 3-5)

The Memory of Azov Egg

Alexander III presented the enamel, diamond encrusted Memory of Azov egg to Empress Marie as an Easter gift in 1891; like all of the "Imperial Easter Eggs," it is a "fantasy" and contains a "surprise," in this case an exact replica of the ship, "Memory of Azov" (Pamiat Azova.) The Fabergé studio carved this "fantasy" from a solid piece of jasper or bloodstone. The egg commemorates the 1890 voyage that the then Tsarevich Nicholas and his brother, Grand Duke George, made to the Far East on the ship, "Memory of Azov."

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The Coronation Egg

One of the most famous eggs in the collection was the five inch tall Coronation Egg that Nicholas II gave to his wife, the Empress Alexandra on the first Easter after his coronation in 1896, hence the date of Easter, 1897. This exquisite egg contained as its "surprise" the tiny reproduction of the coronation carriage, exact to every detail of its construction to the original, including the red velvet upholstery.

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The Madonna Lily Clock Egg

In 1899, Nicholas II gave the Madonna Lily Clock Egg to Alexandra. One of the more beautiful and exquisite eggs, it is divided into twelve parts that are outlined in diamond-studded stripes. Using the "language of flowers," the roses and lilies in the bouquet at the top symbolize love and purity. The diamond clock hand is in the shape of an arrow protruding from the base. The enameled belt, with the Roman numerals set in diamonds, revolves, indicating the correct time.
(This "fantasy" was never sold and remains in State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin )
image source <é_egg) >


The Trans-Siberian Egg

The silver Trans-Siberian Egg is mounted on an onyx base. A map of Russia is engraved with the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway on the central silver section, which also bears the inscription "The route of the Grand Siberian Railway in the year 1900." The hinged lid has an overlay of green enamel and is decorated with inlaid leaves of acanthus. A three-sided heraldic eagle in silver and gold plate rises from the lid, bearing a crown. The egg is supported by three griffins cast in gold-plated silver, each brandishing a sword and shield. The stepped base is of white onyx in the form of a triangle with concave sides and rounded corners. A gold-plated silver braid is inlaid into the base. A working model of the train was inserted into the egg section by section. It consists of a platinum locomotive with a ruby lantern and rosette headlights and of five gold coaches with windows of rock crystal. The coaches are marked "mail," "for ladies only," "smoking," and "non-smoking." The last coach is designated "chapel." The train was wound up with a golden key.

(State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin,
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Out of the total of fifty three eggs, the ones shown here comprise a small sampling.
A large collection exists in the Armoury Museum in Moscow's Kremlin;
Forbes' Magazine
in New York also had a large collection, including some of the most familiar.
The Forbes' folks recently auctioned their collection, much of which was purchased by Putin's government.
I have tried to present a few that are not so well-known; the Coronation Egg is one of the most famous.

If you want to see the locations of the various museums and collections , follow link below
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The Steel Military Egg

The last egg delivered by the Fabergé studio to the imperial family was the Steel Military Egg, 1916. Henrik Wigstrom designed the 6-1/2 inch high steel egg with gold patterns surmounted by a golden crown; four minature artillery shells act as pedestals, obviously in a military spirit to honor Russians fighting and dying in catastrophic numbers during the Great War. The double-headed eagle, emblem of the Romanov dynasty, adorns the steel egg. Nicholas dedicated and gave the Steel Military Egg to Alexandra, whose monogram tops the easel. Artist Vasily Zuiev portrayed the Tsar and the Tsarevich on the tiny painting on ivory that was the egg's "surprise."

Fabulous Fabergé eggs comprised only a portion of the imperial treasures; the necklace (left) honors St. Andrew (patron saint of Russia) and members of the Order of St. Andrew, normally only members of the imperial family but occasionally awarded to extraordinarily important "servants of the crown," e.g. heroic and victorious generals such as Kutuzov and Suvurov.

visit < > to learn more
about the eggs and for a list and images

For a complete list of all the eggs and links [some of which have flown away.],
< >

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De Vogue, Melchoir. "The Imperial City in 1894." Pallasart, 1998-1999.

Forbes, Chris. Fabergé Eggs. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1982.

Shulman, Bruce. "The Fabergé Experience, 1996-1999."

© State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin. © 1996. Cominfo Ltd. All rights reserved.

"Treasures of the Czars: The Florida National Museum." St. Petersburg Times, 1999.