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An Introduction to Faberge

The Faberge Eggs: A History

The Faberge Eggs: Illustrations and Descriptions

Peter Carl Faberge: The Man

The House of Faberge

Explanation of Markings

Authentic Faberge Items

Fake Faberge items

 
Faberge Eggs
An Introduction to Faberge
by H.C. Bainbridge

How many royal "appointments" Faberge had, I never inquired. Doubtless all of them.  Primarily, of course, he was Court Jeweller to the Tsars Aleksandr III and Nikolai II.

Renaissance EggHe was a genius on the rampage, always in search of something on which to vent his creative skill, and on this quest his clients helped him.

Now you cannot give a pearl necklace to a Queen, or a diamond to a Rothschild, or a ruby to a Greville; they have them all.

This was what set Faberge on his quest and it was just this which made him supreme.  It was all those beautiful articles of fantasie, those bibelots for the table, which made his fame the world over.  He became the first in Russia to make objects of elegance, taste and feeling; his work the wide world over became known as a style of its own, "Faberge".

But not only as a master of style does he deserve a niche in the pillar of fame; he gave to two new arts, enameling on gold and silver, and stone- cutting, and he brought them both to the pitch of excellence.

The renaissance of both in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries was very largely due to him.  His cigarette-cases, enamelled on gold and silver, are incomparable.  His flowers, cut in precious and semi-precious stones, almost transcend nature in their delicate tracery and beauty of form; and his animals catch every trick and turn and are cut with a boldness and a verve which make them almost live.

With a catalogue of successes behind him, it was at the "Exposition Internationale Universelle" in Paris in 1900, that he was acclaimed Master by the Goldsmiths of France in the capital of the country from which, 215 years before, his persecuted ancestors had fled.

Here the Empresses Aleksandra Feodorovna and Marie Feodorovna lent for exhibition all their wonderful collection of Easter Eggs, given to them by the Emperors Aleksandr III and Nikolai II.  These are perhaps the finest pieces which Faberge ever made; upon them he lavished every artifice of design, workmanship and mechanism.  I say mechanism, because inside some of them were mechanical devices which would puzzle the skill of a most expert watchmaker to contrive.  Faberge made forty-nine of them in all.

Easter was, as you know, a great time in Russia in Tsarist days.  Everybody kissed everybody else, and said: "Christ is risen"; receiving in reply the words: "Verily He is risen"; and everybody gave everybody else a present.

Easter Eggs took first place as the age-old symbol of "Resurrection", "New Life" and "hopefulness".  Everything was adapted to the shape of them.  How the first Imperial Easter Egg came to be is a romance in itself.

Faberge was an artist in more ways than one, and his unique gift was a subtle genius for creating just the right situation which evoked in his patrons the desire to possess something which, for the moment, had only taken shape in his mind.

When he proposed to the Emperor Aleksandr III (the year 1885 is the nearest I can come to a date) that for the next Easter gift for the Empress he should make an egg with some surprise inside it, the Tsar was all agog to know what it was to be.  To keep an Emperor on tenterhooks may quite easily prove a dangerous proceeding, but Faberge kept his secret; and, loving a joke, he produced what was, to all appearance, an ordinary hen's egg, containing a series of "surprises" wrought in gold and platinum, precious gems and enamel.

The Tsar was so pleased that he gave Faberge a standing order for an egg every Easter-tide, and a bargain was struck between Emperor and Craftsman.  The latter was given carte blanche to make whatever took his fancy, and the former asked no questions; the kernel of the agreement being that each egg must have some surprise inside.

During the lifetime of Aleksandr III only one egg was made each year, and this the Tsar gave to the Tsarina Marie Feodorovna.  But from the time of the accession of Nikolai II, two were made each year; one to be given to the Tsarina Aleksandra Feodorovna and the other to his mother, the Dowager Empress.  The yearly Easter Egg became the great surprise for the Imperial Family.  

Today, as the outcome of the original joke, there are in existence forty-nine Imperial eggs which for ingenuity, craftsmanship and beauty of design, it is no exaggeration to say, surpass anything of a like nature which has yet come from a goldsmith's workshop.

It never entered my head that any of these treasures would ever leave the confines of the Russian Empire where they were carefully guarded together with the rest of the Romanov Crown Jewels.  However, Fate decreed otherwise.

The revolution which shook Russia has brought about many strange occurrences.  During the famine of 1921, a wealthy young American physician, Armand Hammer, went to Russia as a volunteer relief worker, and brought out of that country the greatest private collection of Faberge pieces in existence today.  

A connoisseur of art, Dr. Hammer soon saw that some of the superb treasures of a great dynasty were being swept into oblivion.  Along with paintings by great masters, he collected several hundred pieces of Faberge's finest creations, such as jewelled flowers, animals fashioned of semi-precious stones, icons, enamels and a great variety of bibelots.

Through direct negotiations with the government, Dr. Hammer was also able to purchase eleven of Faberge's priceless Imperial Easter Eggs which were found, together with the other Crown Jewels, when the Imperial Palaces fell into the hands of the present government.

Some of these along with others of the Imperial Eggs loaned by H.M. the Dowager Queen Mary and H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Xenia were featured in the Imperial Russian Exhibition held in Belgrave Square, London, in 1935.

Of all the works of Faberge, the Imperial Easter Eggs are creating the greatest interest today.  For all time they are a monument to his master mind and skill.

 

H.C. Bainbridge For thirty years Mr Bainbridge was the close friend, associate and "ambassador" in Europe of Carl Faberge, the most famous court jeweller in history, often referred to as the "Cellini of the North".
Mr. Bainbridge had the unique experience of meeting and knowing, as he charmingly phrases it: "...all the kings and all the queens, all the multi-millionaires, all the mandarins and all the maharajahs, all the dukes and all the marquises, all the earls, viscounts, barons and baronets."

 

Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia by Will Lowes, Christel Ludewig McCanless