St. Petersburg

Fabulous Faberge

16 Mar 2018

St. Petersburg’s House of Faberge first impressed Tsar Alexander III and his wife, Maria Fedorovna in 1882 when the royals visited their exhibit at the Pan-Russia Exhibition in Moscow. Three years later, the 39 year-old Carl Faberge was named Supplier to the Imperial Court. Alexander’s first commission was inspired by the Russian folk tradition of exchanging eggs at Easter time. This first offering, known as the Hen Egg, was a gift for the Tsarina, and met with instant success. Closely resembling a real egg and covered with white enamel, the egg opened to reveal a chicken covered with diamonds, holding in its beak a tiny sapphire egg. Maria Fedorovna was delighted. The Tsar quickly resolved to present an egg every year. Each one should be unique and each should contain a surprise.

From 1897, following the coronation of the new Tsar Nicholas II, Faberge would bring two eggs to the palace; one for Maria Fedorovna, Nicholas’s mother, and one for his wife, Alexandra. Today the eggs together are snapshots of this period of Imperial history, especially in the later years of the reign of Nicholas II when the family became increasingly closed off from the public, the eggs have a personal emphasis. The Coronation Egg of 1897 was made to commemorate the coronation of the new tsar in May 1896. Glittering gold with black enamelled imperial eagles at each intersection adorned it. The surprise inside this egg was a miniature copy of the carriage the tsarina rode in when she arrived in Moscow right down to the red upholstery inside. This copy took 15 months to make. The art nouveau Lilies of the Valley Egg, made for Empress Alexandra Fedorovna in 1898, contained portraits of Nicholas II and the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana in miniature. The Tsarevich Egg of Easter 1912 honouring the Crown Prince Alexey with a double headed eagle inside covered the front and back with diamonds. Eggs were also created to mark the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the 300 year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.

The Faberge Phenomenon


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