FabergeImperial Easter Eggs
Faberge's first Imperial Easter egg was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III in 1885. Due to its instant success, a permanent order was given to Faberge, who crafted one egg after another for the Imperial Family. Ten were for Tsar Alexander III, who gave them to his wife Maria Feodorovna until his death in 1894. An additional forty-four were created for Tsar Nicholas II from 1895 until 1916 as presents for his mother, the Dowager Empress, and for his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, thus bringing this to a total of fifty-four eggs.
It is also conceivable that some eggs were given to other members of the Imperial Family. Forty-four Imperial Easter eggs are known to exist, of one we have a photograph, while a further five are known from descriptions. One of the two half-finished Imperial eggs for 1917 has also survived.
These eggs are now scattered over the world since their sale by Soviet commissars in the 1920s and 1930s. Ten have remained in the Kremlin Armoury, eleven are in the forbes Magazine Collection, thirteen are in American museums, and the remaining ten are housed in private collections.
Problems concerning the chronology of these eggs is addressed in another chapter (see Lopato, 'A Few Remarks Concerning Imperial Easter Eggs'. Suffice it so say that earlier speculative datings of eggs have been somewhat thrown into disarray due to findings in the Imperial archives.
This series of Imperial Easter eggs is the most ambitious project ever entrusted to a goldsmith. The only conditions set appear to have been an oviform shape, a surprise of some form, and no repetitions. Surprises were frequently linked to some occurrence in the history of the Imperial Family - births, anniversaries, inaugurations. Some bear royal monograms and or dates, and many exhibit miniatures of the Imperial children, or their abodes. Two contain models of Imperial vessels.
Faberge took this commission extremely seriously, often planning eggs years ahead of time. Some did indeed require several years to finish. Much secrecy surrounded the surprise in the eggs, which was never divulged in advance, not even to the Tsar himself. The solemn presentation of the egg was made by Faberge or by his son Eugene, and the recipient was invariably delighted.
The first two eggs, each with a hen motif, appear to have been designed and produced under close supervision. In the following years a certain dependence on earlier models can be detected. By the mid-1890s, however, the designs of the eggs become increasingly audacious. Among the most felicitous examples are the 1897 Coronation Coach egg, the 1898 Lilies-of-the-Valley egg, the 1899 Pansy egg, the 1901 Gatchina Palace egg, the 1913 Romanov Tercentenary egg, and the 1914 Mosaic egg. The series ends on a subdued note with two plain Red Cross eggs for 1915, the simple Order of St. George egg, and the stark Military egg for 1916.
Some of Faberge's clients dared to emulate the Imperial Family in their Easter customs, ordering their own eggs from Faberge. A documented series was commissioned by Aleksandr Ferdinandovich Kelch, the Siberian gold magnate, for his wife Barbara, nee Bazanova, between 1898 and 1904. Single eggs were also made for the Yusupovs and the Nobels.
Faberge at the Paris World's Fair of 1900
The Paris World's Fair of 1900 was planned to be the most lavish one of its kind ever held.1 Preparations must have taken many years, since they involved a substantial modification of the capital's centre. Few are aware today that the Gare d'Orsay and both the Grand and the Petit Palais were built for this occasion. Both of these palaces, -which were then situated on 'Avenue Nicholas II' (today Avenue Winston Churchill), were baptised thus as a gesture of friendship towards Tsar Nicholas II. Together with Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and President Felix Faure, the Tsar had laid the foundation stone of the Pont Alexandre III on 7 October 1896, another monument destined to be opened in 1900 as a symbolic underpinning of Russo-French entente. The visit of the Tsar and Tsarina had been heralded for the opening of the Exposition Universelle in order to inaugurate the bridge. The visit never took place: French papers attributed the Russian change of mind to Alexandra Feodorovna's concern for their lives. Instead the bridge was inaugurated by the Russian Ambassador, Prince Ouroussov.
The World's Fair covered 112 hectares, extending to the Champs Elysees, the esplanade of the Invalides, the Champ de Mars, and the banks of the Seine. The Exposition opened its doors on 14 April 1900 and closed on 12 November. Paris was in ' a frenzy. Seventy-six thousand exhibitors showed their wares, and fifty million entries were registered. Cleo de Merode danced her Cambodian dances in the Asian Theatre at the Trocadero, and Sarah Bernhardt acted in Rostand's L'Aiglon, her star role.
The planning and construction of the Russian Pavillion and its contents at the Trocadero was a major undertaking. Mrde Kowalevsky, Director of the Department of Commerce and Manufacture, was President of the Imperial Commission, Mr A. de Raffalovich of the Ministry of Finance acted as its Vice-President, Prince Viiicheslas Tenicheff as its General Commissar, and Mr Rasil Wouyich as its Deputy Commissar. With a team of eighty-five members, the Commission succeeded in producing a most lavish mise en scene. Architect Meltzer recreated an entire city, with its kremlin, church, and all, to contain the Palais de Vasie Russe. A village in its middle exhibited the smaller Russian rural industries under the patronage of Grand Duchess Sergei. This Russian village was peopled -with typical workmen, craftsmen, cossacks, and musicians, including the famous V. V. Andreev with his Grand Russian orchestra, whom Feodor Chaliapin visited.
Since the Moscow-Vladivostok line of the Trans-Siberian Express had been inaugurated that same year, Wagons Lits exhibited an original train, which was used as a public bar. Visitors could imagine a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express as a continuous panorama glided past the bar's windows. In the section of textiles, the firm of Sapozhnikov exhibited the coronation mantles of Tsar Alexander III and of Nicholas II. Kt the Invalides (Industries Diverses), a large map of France was shown, made by the hardstone cutting factory of Ekaterinburg arid presented to the French Government by Tsar Nicholas II.
The exhibition of jewellery and goldsmith work was shown as part of the Pavillion de ITndustrie on the Esplanade des Invalides, with foreign exhibitors presenting their work in the annex building Section Etrangere. Faberge had been invited to participate as a member of the Classe 95 (Joaillerie et Bijouterie), which was presided by Louis Aucoc fils. His works appeared hors concours alongside Commission members Frederic Boucherori, Rene Lalique, and Henri Vever. As a member of the International Jury, he also showed works in the section Classe 94 (Orfevrerie), presided by Georges Roin, alongside Commission members Th.-Joseph Armand-Caillat and Emile Froment-Meurice.
At the House of Faberge preparations for this major occasion were in full swing by 1899. The Tsar and Tsarina had permitted Faberge to exhibit a selection of items from the Imperial Treasury, including a number of Imperial Easter eggs. Many works exhibited in Paris were later shown to the Russian public in 1902 at the Dervise Mansion (see descriptions of these items in Lopato, 'New Insights into Faberge from Russian Documents.')- It was Faberge's initiative to ask permission to reproduce some of the Imperial Regalia in miniature. A file 'On permission to jeweller Faberge to produce for the purpose of exhibiting at the Paris Exposition of the miniature replicas of the Imperial regalia' was opened on 28 June and closed on 24 August 1899.2
Having the intention to make the miniature replicas of the Imperia crowns regalia (some of them) for the forthcoming Paris World's Fail and not daring to do so without knowledge and permission of th> Cameral Office of His Majesty's Cabinet, f report such is my intentioi and kindly request to grant me, if possible, permission to make sud replicas.
28 June 1899 C. Faberge
Note: His Excellency V.V. Sipiagm - I ask you to discuss the mattei
Jeweller Faberge addressed the Cameral Office of His Majesty Cabinet with a request to allow him to make for the forthcoming Par World's Fair and to exhibit there the exact miniature replicas of soir Imperial regalia (big Emperor's Crown, Sceptre and Orb). Sue request of Mr Faberge is submitted for the consideration of yoi Excellency.
28 July 1899 Director of the Chamberlain's Office of His Majestj Cabinet in the rank of Imperial Court Equerry
Note: Imperial permission is granted, but not for sale.
Baron Frederiechs. 4. August 1899
Dear Sir, Carl Gustavovich,
I inform you that the Imperial permission is granted for yoi
manufacturing the replicas of the Imperial Regalia.3
A note in the files of the Imperial Cabinet concerns tl acquisition in 1902 of these replicas by His Majesty's Cabinet They have been on view at the Hermitage since that time.
In absence of a list of loans from Faberge, we can only ba our knowledge on the descriptions in contemporary repoi . Only a small number of Faberge's exhibits we actually mentioned either in the press or in the jury's repor Those that are described are the Pamiat Azova egg of 1891; tl Lilies-of-the-Valley basket and the Lilies-of-the-Valley egg both of 1896; the Pansy egg of 1899; and the miniature replicas of the Imperial Crown Jewels of 1900; a carnet de bal, a group of flowers, and a candelabra and a large centre-piece, both in nephrite and mounted in bronze and silver.
The Jury of Classe 94 (Orfevrerie) gave a very positive report on Faberge's exhibits.
We have examined with pleasure the works presented by Mr Faberge, the jeweller goldsmith, who, as member of the Jury of Classe 95, was hors concours. He showed us some interesting objects of goldsmith-work: a Louis XVI-style candelabra and a large decorative piece, in which the use of nephrite, bronze and silver and their decoration in the modern taste were worthy of praise, but what was most charming was his collection of precious objects, in gold and enamel destined to give satisfaction to the national tradition of presents, which both the great and the humble, the rich and the poor habitually give at the occasion of Easter.
The Collection of Easter eggs borrowed from the Imperial Treasure was quite exquisite.
These pieces stem more from the tradition of the ] eweller than of the goldsmith, but the forms, and the decoration and above all the dimensions have made us classify them more as goldsmithwork rather than jewellery. The mounts are delicate, the secret compartments, the chasing, the enamels were truly remarkable.
The Jury of Classe 95 (Joaillerie et Bijouterie) analysed Faberge's exhibits as follows:
One cannot but express one's satisfaction when one can examine one by one in detail the jewels exhibited by the House of Faberge. Hors concours as a member of the Jury, this is craftsmanship at the very limits of perfection, the transformation of a jewel into a true object of art. The perfect execution as well as irreproachable setting distinguish all objects exhibited by the House of Faberge, whether it is this tiny imperial crown set with 4000 stones, or these enamelled flowers so perfectly imitated that they seem natural, or these numerous objects of fantasy, which have been examined at length by the Jury.6
In the same vein, traditionalists amongst the critics hailed Faberge's art unreservedly as being stylistically and technically perfect, as Victor Champier observed.
House of Faberge: Faberge & His Family
Peter Karl Faberge was born on May, 30, 1846 in St.Petersburg, Russia. Four years before Karl's birth his father Gustave Faberge founded his own jewelry firm in St.Petersburg, 12, Morskaya Street, 12. In 1841, after finishing his studies under the guidance of the famous jewelers Andreas Ferdinandas Shpigel and Yorgan William Kibel, Gustave Faberge got the title of "The Master of Jewelry". Gustave Faberge, the founder of the firm, was born in the town of Pyarnu on the Baltic Sea in 1814. His father Peter Faberge moved there at the beginning of the 19th century. The Faberges were Protestants and their parents were Puritans from Picardi. In 1685 Lydovik the 14th abolished the religious freedom in the country and the Faberges had to leave France.
In 1842 Gustave founded his own jewelry firm and in the same year he married Charlotta Youngshtadt, the daughter of the Danish painter. His oldest son Peter Karl Faberge studied at the German St.Anna private school and continued his education at the private school in Dresden. After his studies, he traveled in Europe and soon began to learn the art of jewelry under the guidance of Joseph Fridman, the Frankfurt jeweler. In 1870 at the age of 24 Peter Karl Faberge returned to St.Petersburg. As he was very talented and had great skill and knowledge, he inherited the families firm.
In two years Peter Karl Faberge married Augusta Julia Yakobs, the daughter of the manager of the Emperor's furniture workshop. After ten years, Fabeger's firm became independent. The Emperor took it under his protection and Faberge got the title "The Jeweler of his Emperor's Majesty and the Jeweler of the Emperor's Hermitage". In these ten years Faberge created his first Easter Egg, a present to Emperor Nicholas II.
Faberge had four sons: Evgeny (1874-1960), Agaton (1876-1951), Alexandre (1877-1952) and Nikolai (1884-1939). All his sons continued his work. The dramatic events of 1917 changed the political structure of Russia and Karl Faberge closed his firm in 1918. Peter Karl Faberge died in Switzerland on September 24, 1920. Descendants of Karl Faberge continues producing the amazing jewelry.
In Engineer's Castle of St. Peter and Paul Fortress Philip Birkenstein, the chairman of Teo Faberge Fund "St Petersburg Collection", has presented to St Petersburg the egg "Neva", made by the great Karl Faberge's great grand-daughter Sarah. Last week a Faberge Fund delegation from Great Britain invited by St Petersburg International Cooperation Association visited the city. During these yearly visits, the city receives presents. This time Faberge Fund presented the gift to St Petersburg State Museum of History.
Creating Easter eggs with a surprise of precious metals had brought world fame to Karl Faberge's jewellery firm. Already in 1906 Karl's youngest son Nikolai opened the firm's subsidiary in London. Although later, in 1917, the shop was closed, Nikolai stayed in London. In this city Nikolai's son Teo was born, who continued than his father's business. Teo Faberge is the only Karl Faberge's grand-son living today. He works not only with precious metals, though he occupies himself with wood and ivory engraving and china paintings. In 1985 Teo Faberge started the work at St Petersburg Easter eggs collection.
Teo Faberge presented to St Petersburg State Museum of History two eggs from his collection: "St Petersburg" (1993) and "Kiev" (1996). Similar gifts were received by the State Ermitage (the egg "Moscow", 1995), Reserve Museum Peterhof (the egg "Peterhof", 1998) and State Reserve Museum Tsarskoye Selo (the egg "Alexander Palace", 1999). The only daughter of Teo Faberge Sarah by family tradition had become a jewellery designer.
The egg "Neva", the work of Karl Faberge's great grand-daughter, is the third present of Faberge Fund to St Petersburg State Museum of History and Sarah's first work, which has left Great Britain. Sarah herself could not attend at the ceremony of presentation, though her letter telling about the egg's creation was read aloud by Philip Birkenstein.
"It was in winter, many years ago, - remembers Sarah her visit in Leningrad. – Ice, covering Neva, was sparkling in winter sunlight". The egg "Neva" is the picture of the winter city on frozen river banks. It is made from crystal enamelled blue, with a picture: "hoar-frost" of the finest crystal pieces and silver "icicles".
Sarah was especially impressed by the angel on St. Peter and Paul Cathedral's spire, that is why the egg's secret is a golden guardian angel. This motive is called up by St Petersburg's symbol, though Sarah's angel is not its precise copy. According to the author, a diamond torch in the angel's hand lights up the way and guards the citizens, which is at the same time the symbol of St Petersburg citizens' firmness.
A Faberge egg is one of 56 jewelry Easter eggs made by Peter Carl Faberge of the Faberge company between 1884 and 1917. The eggs are among the masterpieces of the jeweler's art.
The Faberge eggs began with an Easter egg made for the czar that became a gift for his wife, Czarina Maria. The egg reminded the empress of her homeland, and so from then on it was agreed that Faberge would make an Easter egg each year for Maria. Faberge designed Easter eggs for another eleven years until Alexander II
I died. Then Nicholas II, Alexander's son, continued the tradition. It was agreed that the Easter gift would always have an egg shape and would hold a surprise. The surprise was always kept secret.
As the House of Faberge prospered (due to in no small part to the cachet of imperial patronage), the preparation of the eggs came to take up an entire year; once a concept was chosen, dozens of artisans worked to assemble the project.
The designs for the Imperial eggs were inspired by historical art works that Faberge imitated or copied from his travels or from the Hermitage. However, there is a poignant representation of what is now Russian history in the design of a number of these eggs. There were eggs to commemorate the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, the completion of the Trans Siberian Railway, and anniversaries. There were eggs depicting the Imperial yacht-Standart, the Uspensky Cathedral, the Gatchina Palace, and during the time of war, the Red Cross and the military.
Faberge's primary source of inspiration came from works of previous centuries. Translucent enameling was a valued technique in the nineteenth century that required several coats of applied enamel and the "firing" of the object in an oven after each coat. However, only a small number of colors were used in the nineteenth century, and so Faberge took it upon himself to experiment and soon came up with over 140 shades. The most prized of these was oyster enamel, which varied in color depending on the light.
Materials used by Faberge included metals - silver, gold, copper, nickel, palladium - that were combined in varying proportions to produce different colors. Another technique used by eighteenth century French goldsmiths and again Faberge involves a simple tinting of the completed work using stones and enamel.
Another technique used by Faberge included guilloche, a surface treatment that could make waves and striations in the design and could be done by machine or by hand. Faberge used natural stones often found in abundance in the area. Precious stones including sapphires, rubies and emeralds were used only for decoration, and when used they were en cabochon (round cut). Diamonds were typically rose-cut. Semi-precious stones including moonstones, garnets, olivines, and Mecca stones were used more often en cabochon.
Fifty six Imperial eggs were made, forty-four of which have been located today and another two that are known to have been photographed. Another twelve Easter eggs were commissioned by Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch, a Siberean gold mine owner. However, the Imperial Easter egg collection commissioned by the last of the Russian Czars is the most celebrated.
Today just 10 eggs were still in Russia, all on display at the Kremlin Armory Museum. Another nine were purchased by Viktor Vekselberg in February 2004 from the Forbes family in New York city. Smaller collections are in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, New Orleans Museum of Art, and other museums around the world. Four eggs are in private collections, and eight are still missing.
Faberge Easter Eggs. Moscow Kremlin collection
The Armoury Chamber, one of the oldest and richest museums of the Moscow Kremlin, has the wonderful collection of the examples of the decorative art and the famous Russian souvenirs. There are Russian jewelry firms of the 19th century and be beginning of the 20th century in this collection. Among them there are items of the famous Faberge's firm: watches, cigarette-cases, jewelry, table silver, tea-sets and coffee-sets, settings of crystal vases, miniature sculptures of non-precious stones. A large group of outstanding craftsmen worked under Karl Faberge's guidance. They created the wonderful collection of Easter Eggs, which are the top of skill and creative inspiration. They were made to order for the members of the Emperor's family. The collection of the Moscow Kremlin contains 10 the most beautiful and exquisite eggs. These eggs are distinguished by their particular luxury, unique imagination, unsurpassed craftsmanship. They were unique and the surprises, which could be found in each egg, amazed everybody. All achievements of this firm are concentrated in these pieces of jewelry works. The creation of these exquisite Easter eggs was a tradition and an old craft in Russia. Long before, Faberge began to make jewelry eggs for the Emperor's family, the eggs of the precious stones were made for the Russian Tsars. For example, the silvered egg-surprise was made by master Northberg for Alexander II. Faberge and his team of painters, jewelers and stone-cutters under the guidance of Michael Perkhin (and then Henrik Wigstrom) were able to bring the skill of the creation of the jewelry Easter Eggs to an unsurpassed level of artistic excellence. Jeweled Easter Eggs, made to the Emperor's order, were always a surprise not only for the recipients, but also for givers as well. "Your Majesty will be pleased" - so Faberge gave the answer to the ask about the idea for the next egg.