This morning, Easter Sunday, kids are going to be waking up early to race to the kitchen to see if Easter bunny has visited their house. Heck, I’m going to be doing it as soon as I press ‘publish’ on this post. For my family and I, we’ll be celebrating with chocolate eggs or bunnies, but in Russian Imperial history Fabergé eggs were the top choice of gift for this special time of year.
Carl Faberge was one of the most sought after jewelers at the time, famous for his high quality and uniquely designed products. Most of the Fabergé eggs that the House of Fabergé produced were miniature eggs, worn on necklaces or housed in groups, but there were some larger ones made; the most famous being the ‘Imperial’ Fabergé eggs commissioned by Tsar Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia. 42 Fabergé eggs remain, 10 which are housed in Moscow’s Kremlin Museum.
As part of a touring exhibition ‘Fabergé: Legacy of Imperial Russia‘ which was open at the Shanghai Museum I was lucky enough to take a glimpse at some of the items which had belonged to the last Russian Tsar’s as well as four of the remaining .
The items on display provided great insight into the lavish lifestyles that the Russian Imperial lifestyle. From simple items – brushes or pots – to lavish jewellery or religious icons guilt in pearls (below right) or the mantle of the Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovnia (above) made of silk, brocade and ermine pelts.
It was the Fabergé eggs that were the most alluring items though. Each unique and expertly crafted, guilty with jewels, a story to share and a ‘surprise’ – a condition that Tsar Alexander III made when commissioning the eggs.
The first egg, “The Memory of Azov” was ordered by Alexander III as a gift for Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna to commemorate the journey undertaken by the Tsar’s sons, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (later known as Tsar Nicholas III), and Grand Prince Georgy Alexandrovich, to the Far East.
The surprise? A miniature replica of the ship that the sons took.
“Trans-Siberian train” Egg was made in 1900 to commemorate the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
After completing the sailing trip, depicted in the “Memory of Azov” egg, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich stopped in Vladivostok and began the construction of the Far East segment of the Siberian railway, which, in Alexander III’s dream, was to connect the European and Asian parts of the country.
The surprise inside the egg is a miniature Trans-Siberian train which is a perfect duplicate of the real train, but also can be set in motion by winding the mechanism with a tiny gold key.
The “Moscow Kremlin” Egg (left) was created in memory of the visit Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna made to the old capital Moscow in 1903. The egg was inspired by the Cathedral of the Assumption where all Tsars were married and crowned.
Inside the gold turret-and-wall structure is a music box that plays two traditional Easter festival hymns composed by A.D. Kastalsky.
In 1925, prior to his escape from Russia, Agathon Fabergé, donated a group of complicated carved pieces to the Fersman Museum along with other articles. Whilst orifices had been drilled in the egg and the support created of rock crystal had been created, the egg was not yet completed.
The upper half of the uncompleted egg shows constellations of the Northern Hemisphere, and the stars on it were to be diamonds. The largest stone was doing to be in the constellation Leo, the sign which Alexei the crown price, was born.
Which would you rather: a chocolate Easter egg or a Fabergé egg?
201号 Renmin Ave, People’s Square
The exhibition ‘Fabergé: Legacy of Imperial Russia‘ is now
showing in Hong Kong until April 29th, 2013.