Posted on April 14, 2017
Even the most humble egg holds a secret. Golden center suspended, white delicate shell always in peril of cracking. Easter is the time of eggs–often brightly colored plastic, stuffed & hidden–their continence seeming an inferior simile to the famous Fabergé eggs that forever changed how we consider the Easter egg. The House of Fabergé reportedly only made 50 “Imperial” easter eggs in total, mostly for the Russian royal family as Easter gifts, of which only 43 survived. Peter Carl Fabergé worked between 1885 and 1917 and created some might argue the most iconic eggs of all time.
The first egg was the “Hen egg” which was commissioned in 1885 and for Alexander III. It was for his wife, and he was so taken with the egg he placed a standing order for an egg every Easter specifying that they all must contain a “surprise”.
Alexander III is imortalized in one of my favorite eggs, the Alexander III Equestrian egg. It is unlike many others in that it is carved out of rock-quartz crystal and the suprise is visable from the outside–a gold statue of Alexander III on horseback.
One of the most famous and iconic of all the Fabergé eggs is the Imperial Coronation Egg from 1897. It was commisioned to honor the coronation of Alexandra Fyodorovna who was the spouse of Nicholas II–the successor of Alexander III and the last ruler of the Russian Empire.
When you see this egg in relation to a painting by Laurits Regner of the coronation it is striking how Fabergé caught the essence of the event in the details of this egg.
Caught inside another egg, is the impressive Gatchina Palace. Nicholas II presented this egg to his mother, the Empress Maria Feodorovna, for Easter in 1901.
The Dowager Empress’s principal residence outside St. Petersburg, the palace itself is a study of luxury and details worthy of Fabergé.
Close to home, they recently found this elephant in Queen Elizabeth II’s collection and will re-unite it with it’s egg for an upcoming show at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They recognized the “surprise” elephant in the queens collection from a detailed description in Fabergé’s ledgers.
The eggs are spread across the world, but housing 3 originals–looking like an Imperial egg itself–is the Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg. The founder of the museum bought out the Malcolm Forbes collection and returned the eggs to Russia to house in this beautiful museum.
I was surprised to learn that you can buy copies inspired by Fabergé eggs made by the Franklin Mint. They seem to be the exclusive seller of Fabergé today, and in addition to eggs they also have jewelry & musicboxs inspired by the famous eggs.
A natural fit, the fashion world has embraced created clutches modelled after the famous eggs.
When I was a child I remember being fascinated by the panorama sugar eggs in my Easter basket, a leftover from Victorian Easter traditions. What I now wonder is if they originally were confectionary intended to mimick the opulence of the Faberge eggs.
It seems the images of Fabergé will live on in our imaginations. It is hard not to be captivated by eggs bearing secrets. Even more than 100 years before Fabergé, in 1758, Jean-Jacques Lequeu concieved of a design for an elephant fountain for The Arc Du Triomphe (never built) that reminds me of a Fabergé egg.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and through imitation, the legacy of Fabergé lives on. I look forward to the suprises I encounter in eggs this Easter weekend, more humble than the Imperial eggs to be sure, but richer in my imagination because of Fabergé’s work.