As an Easter treat, we want to take you on a beautiful Easter Egg Hunt and discover the most remarkable Eggs ever created by a legendary Russian jeweller: Peter Carl Fabergé. An extraordinary talented artist of the end of the 19th century who created the most extraordinary and luxurious Egg-Jewels ever made. Who knows, maybe you could join the hunt and find one of the seven of Fabergé’s creations still missing.
It was between 1885 and 1916 that the Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé created the famous series of 50 Imperial Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial family. A collection now split between several private art collections and some museums. A collection which became a legend.
The series began in 1885 when Tsar Alexander III commissioned an Easter egg from Fabergé as an Easter present for his wife, Maria Feodorovna. Easter is one of the most important dates in the Orthodox Christian Calendar, the Emperor wanted to mark the occasion with a truly remarkable gift
This first Egg, called the Hen Egg, had an opaque white enamelled outer shell, opening to reveal a first surprise - a matt yellow gold yolk This, in turn, contained an enamelled chased gold hen that included a replica of the Imperial Crown with a ruby pendant. Ruby which is now lost, or so we believe.
What we know for you is that the Empress loved her present so much that her husband made it a tradition, that turned into one of the most precious and luxurious collections in the world.
Ten eggs were created from 1885 to 1893, during the reign of Emperor Alexander III; 40 more were during his son’s reign Nicholas II, two each year, one for his mother, the dowager, the second for his wife.
The Coronation Egg is one of Fabergé's most iconic creations.
This magnificent yellow Egg was a present from Nicholas II to his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, in 1897 to commemorate and celebrate her entry into Moscow on 26 May and their coronation in the Uspensky Cathedral a year before.
Its outer shell is made of multi-coloured gold, embellished with translucent yellow enamel and black enamel double-headed eagles set with diamonds, a design recalling the cloth of Gold she wore at the ceremony.
The egg opens revealing a surprise: a diamond-set enamelled gold miniature replica of the original 18th-century carriage, which once contained an emerald drop, later replaced by a yellow briolette diamond, both also lost.
The Bay Tree Egg (also known as the Orange tree egg), created in 1911 is another Fabergé’s masterpieces.
This gift of Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, is inspired by a French 18th-century singing bird automaton.
It is made of 325 nephrite leaves, 110 opalescent white enamel flowers, 25 diamonds, 20 rubies, 53 pearls, 219 rose-cut diamonds and one large rose-cut diamond!
When the clockwork automation is set in motion, a feathered bird appears, flaps its wings, turns its head, opens its beak and sings. This masterpiece has been estimated to 12 million euros in 2014 and is now part of the Victor Vekselberg Collection owned by the Link of Times Foundation and housed in the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg.
These creations are a symbol of both the glory and tragic fate of the last Romanov family.
Peter Carl Fabergé and his wife, Augusta Jacobs, rest in Cannes where she settled down after her husband’s death. This is not a mere coincidence as Cannes and more broadly speaking, the Côte d’Azur was inextricably linked to the glory and tragic fate of the imperial family.
Everything starts in the 19th century when the Grand Tour, leads all the European aristocracy on the road to Italy. The Côte d’Azur is part of their itinerary.
As they progressively fell in love with the Riviera’s landscapes and the climate, renowned for its therapeutic virtues, aristocrats turn from “Tourists” into “Winter visitors” settling down in splendid villas in cities such as Nice and Cannes, from October to April to cure all sort of diseases while making the most of distractions they develop such as yachting, golf or horse races.
Russian Emperors and Empresses will settle in the Côte d’Azur and they will be followed by all the Russian aristocracy. Alexandra Feodorovna, widow of Tsar Nicolas Ier, will spend the winter season of 1856 in Nice. She will be followed by her son in 1864, the tsar Alexandre II and his wife Maria Alexandrovna, the latter choosing Cannes, in 1879, for another long stay to cure her fragile health.
At that time, Fabergé was still a simple jewellery store run by Peter Carl’s father. Peter Carl, was himself in his formative years and embarked upon a Grand Tour of Europe in 1864.
He learned from respected goldsmiths in Germany, France and England and visited the famous museums all over Europe to learn from its masterpieces.
It was in 1882 that Peter Carl Fabergé took over his father’s very ordinary jewellery business. Together with his brother Agathon, he quickly turned it into an international phenomenon, the series of Imperial Eggs he created from 1885 to 1916 contributed a lot to his fame.
With the 1917 revolution in Russia, a new wave of aristocrats emigrated to settle in different cities of the French Riviera, following in the footsteps of their ancestors. Several rich Russian districts already existed at that time with many luxurious villas as well as places of worship such as the St Michael Archangel church in Cannes.
Fabergé left St Petersburg with his family on the last diplomatic train for Riga after his business was taken over by a Committee of the Employees of the Company K Fabergé. In 1918 the business was seized by the Bolsheviks and all the stock was confiscated. Then he fled to Germany and later to Lausanne in Switzerland where he died in September 1920, probably of a broken heart as his family believes.
His widow, Augusta Jacob settled in Cannes after her husband’s death and some years after her own death, the two were reunited when their son Eugene Fabergé took his father’s ashes from Lausanne and buried them in his mother’s grave at the Cimetiere du Grand Jas in Cannes.
During the first years following the revolution, members of the Romanov family who managed to flee also settled in the Cote d’Azur with the hope they could one day come back to the motherland. Cyrille Vladimirovitch Romanov, in exile in Cannes, pretended he was the worthy successor to the throne of Russia, in case the bolshevik regime would collapse and the monarchy could be restored, which was not to everyone’s liking including those who were rather in favour of Nicolas Nikolaëvitch Romanov, another legitimate and more liberal successor, in exile in Antibes.
We now know what happened to the Romanov family
As the Empire fade, the trace of the sumptuous eggs got blurred and today. Out of the 50 Imperial Eggs, absolute masterpiece of the most famous Russian jewellers, 7 are still missing.
Tree Eggs still belong to Royal Families such as the Mosaic Egg which is part of the collection of Queen Elizabeth II.
Some of Fabergé’s Eggs can be seen in museums such as the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg but also in Moscow and New-York. Others belong to private art collections and some are still to be found. Perhaps you will succeed to find one of those Imperial Eggs, either at Christie’s or Sotheby’s or who knows, maybe in an old forgotten box in the attic…
The hunt to find all Fabergé’s Imperial Eggs haven’t finished yet