A limited number of jeweled Easter eggs were created by Carl Fabergé and his company from 1885 to 1917 in St Petersburg. Two Russian museums are currently vying for honours in displaying them to the public.
The most famous of the Fabergé Eggs are those made for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as Easter gifts for their wives and mothers, often called the “Imperial” Fabergé Eggs. About 50 are known to have been produced, of which 42 have survived.
The story began when Tsar Alexander III decided to give a jewelled Easter Egg to his wife the Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal. It is believed that the Tsar, who had first become acquainted with Fabergé’s virtuoso work at the Moscow Pan-Russian Exhibition in 1882, was inspired by an 18th century egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark. The object had captivated the imagination of the young Maria during her childhood in Denmark.
St Petersburg will soon have two collections of the work of Fabergé. Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who bought millionaire Malcolm Forbes’ collection in 2004 for around $100 million, is going to put 4,000 items from his fine and decorative art collection on show in the Shuvalov Palace. Vekselberg owns nine Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs.
The State Hermitage Museum has its own plan to open Fabergé Rooms in 2014 in the restored east wing of the General Staff building on Palace Square. Its opening will mark the 250th anniversary of the museum’s foundation by Catherine the Great. The new rooms will focus on the development of jewellery as an art form by Fabergé and others. Fabergé shifted the emphasis previously given to the sheer value of the materials used in creating an object onto the craftsmanship involved. He once said, “Expensive things interest me little if the value is merely in so many diamonds or pearls.”
Since the Russian Revolution, eight Fabergé eggs have vanished into thin air. In 2007 an Easter Egg bearing the coat-of-arms of Baron James de Rothschild which had been sitting in a Paris apartment for decades was sold for £9 million. So it would be the equivalent of winning the lottery to keep an eye out for any of the following:
- The Hen with Sapphire Pendant Egg (1886).
- The Cherub with Chariot Egg (1888).
- The Nécessaire Egg (1889).
- The Alexander III Portraits Egg (1896).
- The Mauve Egg (1897).
- The Empire Nephrite Egg also known as the Alexander III Medallion Egg (1902).
- The Royal Danish Egg also known as the Danish Jubilee Egg (1903) pictured above.
- The Alexander III Commemorative Egg (1909).