The Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg has the world’s largest collection of imperial Easter Eggs, crafted by the House of Fabergé for Easter gifts from the tsar to his family.
The eggs were scattered in the tumult of the Russian Revolution. Malcolm Forbes “assembled the Forbes Fabergé collection over several decades”, and his son sold the eggs in 2004 to a Russian who set up the Fabergé Museum on the Fontanka River.
The Hen Egg, the first Easter Egg, was “presented by Tsar Alexander III to Tsarina Maria Feodorovna on Easter 1885”. “Once the white matte enamel shell is cracked open, a removable gold yolk is disclosed, which in turn separates in half to reveal a varicolored gold hen with ruby eyes. A gentle push under the bird’s beak revealed the final surprise inside, a miniature ruby egg-shaped pendant suspended within a diamond-set replica of the Imperial crown. The current whereabouts of this treasure is unknown.”
Later easter eggs were more personalized and lavish.
“The Renaissance Easter Egg Jewelry-Box, made in 1894, was the last Easter gift to Maria Feodorovna from her husband Alexander III, who was killed in October of the same year.”
In 1895, “continuing the tradition established by his father, the Rosebud Egg was the first Fabergé egg presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his bride Alexandra.” “Once opened, the egg reveals a yellow enameled rosebud, which blooms to disclose a ruby and diamond-set Imperial crown. The whereabouts of this final surprise is unknown today.”
My favorite is the 1897 Coronation Easter Egg. “Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna on Easter 1897, … the surprise inside the egg is a removable replica of the coach that carried Alexandra to the coronation ceremony.”
The Lilies of the Valley Easter Egg, from 1898, is inspired by Tsarina Alexandra’s favorite flower, with photos of the tsar and their two eldest children hidden in the egg.
The 1900 Cockerel Easter Egg. “Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, on Easter 1900, this egg in the form of a Baroque table clock is enameled violet over a guilloché zigzag ground.”
Fifteenth Anniversary Easter Egg. “Made to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II’s accession to the throne, the egg presented in 1911 to Tsarina Alexandra is perhaps the most personal of all those crafted by the House of Fabergé. Displaying its surprise on its exterior, 18 superbly painted scenes illustrate the principal events of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra’s reign as well as individual portraits of the recipient, her husband and their five children.”
The Bay Tree Easter Egg was presented by Tsar Nicholas II to the his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, on Easter 1911.
The Order of St. George Easter Egg. “Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna on Easter 1916, the egg commemorates the 1915 presentation of the Order of St. George. The Order was created by Catherine the Great to be bestowed by members of the army for military bravery.”
The museum did a wonderful job of displaying the eggs. However, the eggs have no signs to identify them, so you need to rent an audio guide to have a clue about what you’re seeing. The Fabergé Museum has eggs made for other customers, as well as articles other than eggs. é