HISTORY OF THE FABERGE EASTER EGG COLLECTION.
It is unlikely that there is at least one visitor to the State Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin who walked past a window displaying the greatest relic not only of Russia, but of the whole world a collection of Easter eggs of the imperial family, made at the famous jewelry factory of Carl Faberge. And even more many come to Moscow just to look at the famous Moscow jewelry collection.
The collection received its Moscow registration on the night of September 16-17, 1917, when a train arrived in the ancient capital from Northern Palmyra. Forty carriages of the train consisted of “especially valuable property of the former palace department”. He was evacuated from Petrograd in connection with the offensive of the German troops. Among the treasures were Easter eggs, made by the imperial order by the firm of the famous jeweler Carl Faberge.
In 1922, these unique items ended up in the EXPORT antique funds of the Soviet government. (According to unverified sources, from 1917 to 1922, the boxes were in the storerooms of the Armory Chamber, their hands reached them only after 4 years.) This is how the story of the tsar’s masterpieces, full of drama, began, the lion’s share of which was taken out of Russia in the dark years of the sale of the national treasure.
The history of the collection of Faberge Easter eggs at the Armory.
Today it is impossible to say how many Easter eggs were in the boxes that arrived from St. Petersburg. The hastily compiled inventories of the royal property contained only a very brief description of them. (It should be noted in parentheses that the Fabergé firm received orders for the manufacture of 52 eggs from the royal family. Only 50 were completed, the last order for the manufacture was received in 1917, and, having begun to work on the order, they did not have time to complete it).
The new government needed funds to fight hunger and devastation. We needed money to buy machines and tractors and other things. It was decided to create a stock of “luxury and antiquity items that could serve as items of export abroad. Thus, the new authorities killed two birds with one stone. And the necessary funds appeared and got rid of the legacy of the “accursed past, the legacy of reactionary art.” Trotsky was the chairman of the commission for the registration and concentration of values. The commission began working at the Armory on January 14, 1922. The most unique products of Russian jewelers Sazikov, Faberge, Khlebnikov were recognized as “not artistic values, but artistically processed silver”, that is, a market commodity, which, “due to the cessation of production, became an antique commodity”.
For this “market commodity” foreign salespeople have become frequent visitors to Moscow. As the director of the Armory Chamber D.D. Ivanov bitterly put it, “THE FINANCIAL GAPPAINS of the young Soviet republic were REPAIRED at that time AT THE EXPENSE OF THE COUNTRY’S CULTURAL VALUES.
In 1927, when the first wave of antique sales subsided, 24 Faberge Easter eggs were handed over to the Armory. But the reduction of the collection did not end there.
In 1930, the Special Shock Brigade at Antiques (an office for the purchase and sale of antiques) allocated 11 more Easter eggs from the exposition and storage of the museum. Employees of the Armory Chamber in every possible way delayed the issuance of the exhibits to Antiques, but a formidable letter came from the People’s Commissariat of Education with a “secret” stamp warning about responsibility for slowing down “the implementation of already resolved issues”. On the basis of this document, the values had to be handed over.
Interestingly, the price of eggs, as set by Soviet experts, ranged from several hundred to several thousand rubles. Thus, the Renaissance egg and the egg with miniatures depicting palaces and yachts were valued at 400 and 500 rubles respectively AT THE COST OF THE MATERIAL. The sold items ended up in various museums in the United States.
History of the Faberge Easter Egg Collection But the misadventures of the fairly thinned collection did not end there either. In 1933, Antiques selected 5 more eggs from the Armory collection. I must say that the staff of the treasury fought for the exhibits to the last. But the then commandant of the Kremlin, Comrade Peterson, ordered that all items be handed over. With great difficulty, we managed to defend the Clover egg and the Memory of Azov. Three of the five selected eggs had to be given away.
This is an exquisite handicraft mosaic egg. It seems to be embroidered on a platinum base with colored precious stones. The second is a platinum egg-basket with a golden polychrome bouquet of wildflowers. These two eggs are now in the collection of Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. And a jubilee egg with a monument to Peter the Great on a huge sapphire. It is now in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
As a result of all these events, ten Easter eggs belonging to the imperial family remained in the Armory.
A symbol of power and spirituality K. Faberge egg Moscow Kremlin
In 1903, the Emperor and Empress spent Holy and Easter Week in Moscow, which was perceived by Russian society, and especially by Muscovites, as a significant event. Let us briefly recall that after the tragedy on the Khodynskoye field, when more than 3,000 people died during the coronation celebrations in 1896, the august couple almost did not appear in the gold-domed one. Therefore, their arrival at the capital on the most important Orthodox holiday was regarded as a sign of reconciliation with Moscow.
K. Faberge’s egg Moscow Kremlin.Return to Moscow
This event determined the appearance of the next Easter egg. Performing this work, unusual in design, the masters of the company tried to create an image of the ancient Kremlin, at the same time majestic and fabulously elegant. They succeeded to the highest degree! Indeed, at first glance, this product is perceived as an exact miniature copy of the Moscow citadel. Contemporaries even considered this egg a model of the Kremlin, which is not at all the case. Faberge’s jewelers created just a fantasy variation on the theme of the Kremlin walls, towers and cathedrals.
K. Faberge’s egg Moscow Kremlin. Jewelry technique
The decor of the central part of the product the eggs themselves resembles the architecture of the Assumption Cathedral. White enamel was applied to the walls. The dome of the cathedral egg was covered with gold. If we had the opportunity to look through one of the windows located under the dome of the cathedral, we would be surprised to see the festively illuminated interior of the temple. You can even see the grandiose iconostasis, the royal place, round pillars covered with fresco painting. The interior decoration of the miniature Assumption Cathedral is painted on an oval glass plate. It was inserted inside the egg. This clever trick creates the illusion of the interior space of an Easter surprise.
The central part of the egg stands on a red gold stand. It is made in the form of four towers of the Moscow Kremlin. Two of them recreate the Spasskaya Tower, the other two Vodovzvodnaya. The towers are interconnected by walls imitating the Kremlin ones. There are two coats of arms on the Spasskaya Tower. One is the coat of arms of the Russian Empire with a double-headed eagle. The other is of Moscow with the image of George the Victorious. In addition, two miniature enamel icons were placed in the icon cases above the gate. The famous “Our Lady of Kazan” and “Christ the Almighty”.
This is one of those products of the company, in which elements are clearly prioritized. In it, the register character of the work is clearly expressed, three levels are clearly readable, connected to each other by stairs going up to the temple. The steps lead upward and embody the idea of building a spiritual temple in oneself, of the path upward, of the stages of progress towards truth. It is no coincidence that the composition is crowned with an egg-cathedral with a golden onion of the temple. The temple soars high above the stand, its golden dome rises above the enamel roofs of the towers.
Music Box.K. Faberge’s egg Moscow Kremlin
K. Faberge’s egg The Moscow Kremlin has a musical mechanism. It can be wound with a golden key. The choice of the melody played by the miniature mechanism is not accidental. During the Easter Liturgy in the Assumption Cathedral, which was attended by the imperial family, the “Cherubim” sounded, which Nicholas II liked very much. The tsar praised the singers and asked the director of the synodal choir who was the author of the music he liked. It turned out to be the composer A.D. Kastalsky. The court jeweler apparently knew this story. After all, she became known to the press. Therefore, a magical cherubic melody a festive Easter hymn was built into the mechanism.
The timing of the delivery of this egg to the emperor is still controversial. On the egg itself, the date 1904 is affixed twice carved and inscribed in white enamel.
But, according to archival documents, Faberge handed it over to the emperor only two years later, in 1906. In the invoice of the company in the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty, the price of the product is indicated 11.8 thousand rubles. An inventory of the gift has also survived: “The Moscow Kremlin egg made of multi-colored gold and enamel with a white egg depicting the Cathedral of the Assumption, with music, on a white onyx pedestal.”
K. Faberge’s egg Moscow Kremlin. Dating
Be that as it may, no invoices from Carl Faberge to His Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet for Easter gifts from 1904 and 1905 have been found. It is also unclear that the hallmark of the jeweler the head of the workshop, is not on this egg. Most likely, Mikhail Perkhin began to make it, who died in August 1903 and finished the order already by G. Wigström. Therefore, it could have turned out that due to changes in the composition of the company’s management, the order was simply not made on time.
Moreover, this has happened before. In 1896, Nicholas II was so angry with the head of a jewelry company that in a letter to his mother he even called him “stupid Faberge” because the imperial order was not completed on time.
In 1909, Nicholas II asked his mother, Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna, to forgive Faberge for his “involuntary inaccuracy”, promising to send an egg a week later.
Easter egg Clover.
A major researcher of Faberge, Kenneth Snowman, noted that the style of the jeweler’s Easter eggs is a kind of “cultural sponge”. Artists composers, or, as they would be called now, scrupulously studied the styles of bygone eras and drew from this source. But the products of this company have never carried prints of something counterfeit, copied. Rather, on the contrary, they gave the impression of a living, mental movement forward of artistic thought.
Easter egg Clover. Jewelry style
It was not uncommon to prefer ceremonial classicism, solemn Empire style and magnificent rococo, the newest style of that time Art Nouveau with its herbal and herbal motifs and expressive lines. Modern was the best suited for the embodiment of an intimate family theme. Moreover, Carl Faberge avoided the eccentricities of French jewelers. For Faberge, metaphors of love were more important than erotic allusions of French masters, and in this he leaned more towards the ideals of the 19th century with its sentimental and slightly naive language of flowers. He turned to Russian nature for inspiration. The most poetic Easter gift in Art Nouveau style is probably the Clover egg.
Easter egg Clover. Materials and technique
This egg was presented by Nicholas II to his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna. In 1902. It is woven from the finest scanned gold clover shamrocks. Clover leaves alternate. Some are lined with small diamond roses. (a rose is a special type of diamond cut). Others green are filled with transparent enamel, like stained glass. This enamel technique, called stained glass or window enamel, is very complex.
Only very large Russian jewelry firms owned the secret of its manufacture.
The complexity of this work determined the very high price of an egg at that time. It cost eight thousand seven hundred and fifty rubles.
Over the entire surface of the “shell” of the egg, composed of clover leaves, red ribbons of small rubies are intertwined, they twist and connect the petals to each other. Gently scarlet rubies are not accidental here this stone was considered a symbol of passionate love.
The egg is supported by an openwork stand made in the form of smoothly curved stems with clover leaves. It is made of colored, slightly greenish gold.
Easter egg Clover. Lost surprise
The surprise egg was lost even before the item entered the Armory. In 1990, Kremlin employees discovered an account in the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty in the archive. It said there was a large four-leaf clover inside. Its petals were lined with twenty-three diamonds and rose-cut diamonds. A miniature portrait was inserted on each of the petals. With a high degree of probability, we can say that these were images of the four royal daughters.
The four-leaf clover is the rarest specimen in nature.
Therefore, it has long been considered the emblem of good luck. Thus, this Easter egg symbolized the fulfillment of the old dream of Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich about a happy union with Alix, love and family. Such a gift could not help touching the heart of the dreamy Alexandra Fedorovna, brought up in the spirit of Victorian sentimentality.
Easter egg Clover Mikhail Perkhin’s swan song
The Clover egg is the last work of the brilliant jeweler Mikhail Perkhin in the Kremlin museum collection. After 1903, his romantic, soft plastic and picturesque Easter products gave way to the chilly exquisite jewelry creations of Heinrich Wigstrem, a native of Finland. The closest assistant to Perkhin, Wigström headed the workshop after the death of the teacher and honorably continued to create a brilliant series of Fabergé Easter masterpieces.
Easter egg clock Bouquet of lilies a gift to Alexandra Fedorovna
In many of them, the theme of the last Russian autocrat’s love for his wife was traced. These tacit declarations of love, expressed in the refined and whimsical language of jewelry art, can say as much as letters or memoirs. The spouses really loved each other very much and Nicholas II considered the hours spent with his loving wife the happiest time in his life.
The highest skill of Russian carvers is striking, they depicted the thinnest delicate buds, half-opened and fully opened flowers, the transparent petals of which bend like living ones under the weight of dew.
The yellow, transparent enamel of a warm, sunny tone, shimmering on the golden surface, covers the golden “shell” of the egg just as splendidly. To top it off, the colored gold used in the engraved overlay designs complements this exquisite Easter gift that tells us that “time passes, love remains.”
Unfinished Easter gift by K. Faberge “The Constellation of the Tsarevich”
“The constellation of the prince” is the name of the unfinished egg ordered by the jewelry firm of Carl Gustavovich Faberge.
The egg was made of dark blue glass supported by silver cherubs. Cherubim were fixed on clouds of rock crystal. Also, Birbaum noted that the cherubs and clouds were completed, but the egg itself and the pedestal remained unfinished. The egg was also supposed to contain a watch with a rotating dial.
The design of the egg dedicated to the Tsarevich was apparently recommended by the august persons. It is known that at the end of 1915, the heir fell so badly ill that the situation was considered critical. But he miraculously recovered (the empress attributed the recovery to Rasputin’s prayers), and this was regarded as the second birth of Alexei Nikolaevich.