Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Fabergé egg

Happy Easter!

In honor of the day, let's have a look at the very 1st Fabergé egg, created for Russian czar Alexander III (1845-1894) as an Easter gift to his wife. In a review of a book about this and the subsequent 49 imperial Fabergé eggs, Joseph Tartakovsky writes:
"In 1885, Czar Alexander III gave the czarina an Easter present that astonished her. When your wife lives in a palace with 900 rooms, delighting her with a gift is no easy task. And at first, Czarina Marie Fedorovna could have been excused for being underwhelmed by Alexander's offering: It was a plain enameled egg -- the traditional Russian Easter gift -- 2½ inches high. Inside the egg, though, she found a yolk made of gold; inside that, an exquisite golden hen on a bed of golden straw; inside that, a miniature diamond crown; and inside that, a tiny ruby pendant. She'd never seen anything like it. No one had. It so captivated the family that its maker, Carl Gustavovich Fabergé, earned the right to display the royal seal."
The "Hen Egg," as it is known, began an annual tradition between the czar and his wife, and launched a series of thousands of jeweled eggs made by the House of Fabergé between 1885 and 1917. The eggs became increasingly elaborate - and to my mind, gaudy - but most (42 of the 50 Imperial eggs and 57 of the 65 large eggs) survive and are held up as premier examples of the jeweler's art. They are displayed in museums and command record-breaking prices when sold at auction (the 1913 Winter Egg sold in 2002 for $9.6 million and the 1902 Rothschild Egg sold in 2007 for £8.9 million).

When his father died, Czar Nicholas II (1868-1918) carried on the Easter gift-giving tradition, and the commission of Fabergé eggs continued until the members of the royal Romanov family were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Only Nicholas II's mother, the recipient of the 1st Imperial egg, survived - and fled with the last delivered Imperial egg, the Order of St. George.

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