In 1885 Tsar Alexander III (House of Romanov) commissioned the production of the gold and enamel 'Hen Egg' for his wife the Empress Maria which she adored. Fabergé was made ‘Goldsmith by Special Appointment to the Imperial Crown’ and over the next 33 years 52 eggs were made for the Russian Royal Family as well as a further 15 for other private buyers.
First Imperial (Hen) Egg, 1885.
Presented by Alexander III to Czarina Maria Fyodorovna. Gold, rubies & diamonds. Kept in Svyaz' Vremyon Fund - Viktor Vekselberg collection - Moscow. Inside the hen there was a ruby crown and inside the crown a pendant. However, the diamond crown and a ruby pendant were "lost" when the egg was sold by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s.
Egg from gold is covered in polished opaque white, simulating a shell, enamel; shutters keep on three bayonet locks. Inside – "yolk" of matte gold which, opening, Contains a figure of a gold chicken in a nest with a suede lining and the edges engraved on gold representing straw. The plumage is executed from alternating color gold, a head – from yellow, and a comb and ear rings – from red. All surfaces are carefully engraved, eyes are executed from rubies-cabochons. The case of a chicken opens by means of hidden at the tail-end of the hinge, on a paunch are engraved yellow gold of a pad. The chicken, in turn, contained other surprises (presumably imperial crown decorated with diamonds, And in it - a chain with two ruby coulombs), considered lost after sale of the egg by the Bolsheviks in 1920. ( Viktor Vekselberg collection, Moscow.)
The Lost Third Imperial Easter Egg by Carl Fabergé.
The Third Imperial Easter Egg is one of 50 delivered by Fabergé to Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II from 1885 to 1916, and until its recent discovery was one of eight lost eggs. Only two others of these lost eggs are thought to have survived the revolution.
The egg was the third of 54 Fabergé eggs owned by the Russian royal family and had been lost since 1922. It is recorded that in 1922 this egg was transferred from the Kremlin Armoury, which had confiscated the eggs in 1917 when the Tsar was overthrown, to the special plenipotentiary of the Council of People's Commissars, Ivan Gavrilovich Chinariov. Beyond the written records, a 1902 photograph of the egg on exhibition in St. Petersburg also survived.
|Lost Faberge egg discovered – The diamond mechanism opens the egg to reveal a Vacheron Constantin watch inside. The gold watch with diamond hands is hinged to stand upright.|
Two Fabergé experts, Vincent and Anna Palmade, found the catalog from a 1964 auction by Parke Bernet (an auction house later acquired by Sotheby's) and seeing the photograph they were able to identify an egg that sold for $2,450 as the missing Fabergé egg. We will probably never know how it ended up leaving the USSR and making it to the US, but we imagine it must be a pretty interesting story.
This egg hasn’t been seen since 1902, and it might not be seen for another 100 years because it was bought by a private collector. Given by Alexander III Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias to Empress Marie Feodorovna for Easter 1887.
The jeweled and ridged yellow gold Egg stands on its original tripod pedestal, which has chased lion paw feet and is encircled by colored gold garlands suspended from cabochon blue sapphires topped with rose diamond set bows.
It contains a surprise of a lady’s watch by Vacheron Constantin, with a white enamel dial and openwork diamond set gold hands. The watch has been taken from its case to be mounted in the Egg and is hinged, allowing it to stand upright. Made in the workshop of Fabergé’s Chief-Jeweller: August Holmström, St. Petersburg, 1886-1887.
In all likelihood, this is now the most expensive timepiece ever sold, surpassing the famous Rothschild egg sold in 2007 by Christie's for over $18 million. Of course, the most expensive watch (without extra components) ever sold was the Henry Graves Supercomplication made by Patek Philippe, which sold for $11 million in 1999.
The 1917 Russian Revolution toppled Tsar Nicholas II who was executed along with much of the royal family in July 1918. Fearing for his safety, Peter Carl Faberge abandoned Russia travelling first to Latvia then Germany and finally Switzerland where he died in Lausene in 1920.
The Fabergé eggs and many other treasures of the Royal family were confiscated and stored in the vaults of the Kremlin Armoury. Some were sold to raise funds for the new regime. Over time eight of the original 52 Imperial eggs have vanished and their whereabouts remain a mystery to this day. A full list of missing eggs is below. In 2007, just one egg, 'The Rothschild' was sold at Christies Auction House for $8.9 million.
The Missing Eggs:
(1886) The Hen Egg with Sapphire Pendant (1888) The Cherub with Chariot Egg (PPC-USA) (1889) The Nécessaire Egg (PPC-UK) (1896) The Egg with Alexander III Portraits (1897) The Mauve Egg (1902) Empire Nephrite Egg (Alexander III Medallion) (1903) The Royal Danish (Jubilee) Egg (1909) The Alexander III Commemorative Egg
|The Hen Egg with Sapphire Pendant|
|Cherub with Chariot Egg behind Caucasus Egg|
The 1888 Cherub with Chariot egg is behind the Caucasus egg on the far right of the bottom shelf. It is almost completely hidden by the Caucasus egg, which is why it has remained undetected for more than 100 years. The egg gradually reveals itself following long and patient scrutiny with a magnifying glass. One wheel of the Chariot appears just left of the Caucasus stand, the tip of the egg is just left of the tip of the Caucasus egg and the outline of the Cherub pulling the Chariot with his two hands can be seen just above and on the left of the wheel. There are also two reflections of the egg in the vitrine glasses - the outline of the chariot can be seen on the reflection in the vitrine to the right of the egg. There can be little doubt that this is indeed the Cherub with Chariot egg because its appearance is quite unique and matches perfectly the description in the account books of N. Petrov, assistant manager to the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty - Cherub pulling a chariot containing an egg. (Fabergé, Proler and Skurlov, 100; Lowes and McCanless, 24-5)
|Alexander III Portraits Egg|
This Egg was long thought to be the 1892 gift for the Imperial Couple's 25th wedding anniversary, but later research proved that the 12 Monogram Egg was presented to Maria Feodorovna at Easter in 1895, in memory of Tsar Alexander III, who had died the previous November.
In November 2008 new research proved that this Egg had to be one and the same egg as the missing Alexander III Portraits Egg, and was presented to Maria Feodorovna as remembrance to Alexander III and the fact that the Imperial couple's married 30 years earlier, in 1866.
The 1896 12 Monogram Egg / Alexander III Portraits Egg was the first in what would become no less than four Imperial Eggs directly commemorating Alexander III, either through miniature paintings or through sculptures. The other three Eggs are the 1902 Empire Nephrite Egg (missing), the 1909 Alexander III Commemorative Egg (missing) and the 1910 Alexander III Equestrian Egg.
In 1949, Marjorie Merriweather Post acquired the 1896 Alexander III Portraits Egg. Today the egg is part of a large Fabergé collection at the Hillwood Museum in Washington (DC). The surprise in the Fabergé egg has been missing and no photographs - only an invoice - were known to scholars until now. The egg was previously identified as the 1895 Twelve Monogram Egg, until Annemiek Wintraecken published a revised Fabergé egg timeline in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, November 2008. Based on the Fabergé invoice the surprise included six portraits of Alexander III and ten sapphires. The egg and its surprise were presented for Easter 1896 by Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who wrote to her son:
"I can't find words to express to you, my dear Nicky, how touched and moved I was on receiving your ideal egg with the charming portraits of your dear, adored Papa. It is all such a beautiful idea, with our monograms above it all." (von Habsburg, Fabergé: Treasures of Imperial Russia, 2004, 66)
In our auction catalog research we found four photographs of the surprise - a folding miniature frame. Whereabouts of the frame is currently unknown, however, we hope the surprise may be alive and well in the care of an unsuspecting collector.
Research in the Russian State Historical Archives in Moscow shows that the surprise in the Mauve Egg was heart-shaped and there is a strong suggestion that it may be the heart-shaped frame included in the Forbes Magazine Collection, (now Vekselberg Foundation). The frame is set with the date 1897 in rose-cut diamonds and opens as a three-leaf clover with each leave holding a photograph, Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and their baby daughter Grand Duchess Olga.
There is no mention of the Mauve Egg in either the 1917 or 1922 inventories of confiscated Imperial treasure. This suggests the Egg had been removed before 1917, perhaps by Maria Feodorovna herself.
|The Nécessaire Egg|
The story of this previously unidentified golden egg up until 1952 has now been pieced together by Kieran McCarthy of Wartski. His detective work was prompted by the opening up of the Russian archives in the 1990s, where a Fabergé invoice addressed to the Tsar for "Nécessaire Egg, Louis XV style, 1900 roubles, St. Petersburg 4th May 1889" was discovered in the Imperial ledgers. Two years later, an inventory of items in the Gatchina Palace recorded: "Egg decorated with stones, containing ladies toilet articles, 13 pieces." In 1917, items confiscated by the provisional government included a "gold nécessaire egg, decorated with precious stones", and, in 1922, "1 gold Nécessaire egg with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and 1 sapphire" was among the goods transferred to the Sovnarkom, the central agency in Moscow from where confiscated items were dispersed and sold off by the state.
Searching through Wartski's ledgers, Mr. McCarthy found an entry confirming that an object matching the description of the Nécessaire Egg was sold in 1952. The buyer was almost certainly British, and insisted on anonymity. Wartski observed absolute discretion and never recorded the name, and there is no record of it having being seen by anyone in the art world since.
in 2007 Mr. McCarthy discovered the photographs taken at the 1949 exhibition. "When I saw the object on the bottom shelf of the cabinet, I knew in an instant that it had to be it. The detective work was an intellectual exercise, but the effect was physical spine-tingling rush of adrenalin, all concentrated on that square centimetre of print." The grainy images, which have been scanned and magnified, are the only known visual record of the missing Nécessaire Egg.
|Missing 1902 Alexander III Commemorative Egg|