THE FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY EGG: A FABERGÉ IMPERIAL EASTER GG PRESENTED BY EMPEROR NICHOLAS II TO HIS WIFE THE MPRESS ALEXANDRA FEODOROVNA AT EASTER 1911,WORKMASTER ENRIK WIGSTROM, ST. PETERSBURG
shell of the egg with eighteen panels bordered by green enameled
leafage wrapped with diamond-set ribbons at the intersections
and enclosing sixteen miniatures by court miniaturist
Vassilii Zuiev, comprising seven oval portrait miniatures
of the Imperial family within diamond-set borders: Tsar Nicholas
II, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the Tsarevich Alexis
Nikolaevich, Grand Duchesses Olga Nikolaievna, Tatiana Nicholaievna,
Maria Nikolaievna and Anastasia Nikolaevna; and nine historical
scenes from the reign of Nicholas II: The Moment of the Holy
Coronation, The Ceremonial Procession to the Uspensky Cathedral,
The Ceremonial Reception of the Members of the First State
Duma in the Winter Palace, Huis ten Bosch in the Hague the
site of the first Peace Conference, The Transfer of the Relics
of St. Seraphim of Sarov, The Unveiling of the Peter the Great
Monument in Riga, The Opening of the Monument in Poltava Commemorating
the Two Hundreth Anniversary of the Battle of Poltava, The
Museum of the Emperor Alexander III and The Opening of the
Alexander III Bridge in Paris at which His Imperial Majesty
was to have been present; also with two oval reserves within
diamond-set borders beneath the miniatures of Nicholas and
Alexandra enclosing the dates 1894, the date of the wedding
of Nicholas and Alexandra, and 1911, the fifteenth anniversary
of the coronation, each date above a ribbon inscribed Fabergé
in Cyrillic, the top of the egg inscribed with the Imperial
monogram of Alexandra Feodorovna below a table diamond encircled
by a diamond-set border, the bottom of the egg mounted with
a diamond also encircled by a diamond-set border, the surrounds
of the oval portrait miniatures and the top and the bottom
of the egg enameled translucent oyster over a guilloché
ground, the interior of the egg marked with initials
of workmaster and 1908-1917 assay mark for St. Petersburg,
72 standard for 18 karat gold. With original fitted velvet-covered
egg-shaped box, the lid lining black-stamped in Cyrillic,
Fabergé/St. Petersburg/Moscow /London below the Imperial
eagle. Also with gold tripod stand, unmarked .
The Fifteenth Anniversary Egg is the egg that best depicts a number of both intensely private family moments and public achievements of the Tsar and Tsarina. The fifteen years spanned by the two dates on the egg, 1894 and 1911, are both seventeen years of happily married life (they were married on November 12/26th, 1894) with five beautiful children, coupled with fifteen years of a relatively successful reign. Nevertheless, with hindsight, there is a constant tragic undercurrent to many of the events depicted.
Fabergé's invoice was entered April 9, 1911:
Large gold egg. Louis XVI style, of opalescent white enamel with green enamel wreaths, 929 rose-cut diamonds, 1 diamond, 1 large rose-cut. 16 miniatures by Zuiev:
- His Majesty the Emperor
- Her Majesty the Empress
- His Highness the Heir-Tsarevich
- The Grand Duchesses: Olga Nikolaievna, Tatiana Nikolaievna,
- Maria Nikolaievna, Anastasia Nikolaievna
- The Procession in the Cathedral of the Dormition
- The Holy Coronation of their Majesties
- The Emperor's speech from the Throne
- Translation of the Relic of Saint Seraphim of Sarov
- The Peace Palace in The Hague
- The Emperor Alexander III Museum
- The Emperor Alexander III Bridge in Paris
- The Unveiling of the monument to Peter I in Riga
- The Poltava Festivities (Swedish Grave)
- Two medallions with dates 1894 and 1911 16,600 rubles
St. Petersburg, June 13, 1911 1
The seven exquisite oval family miniatures by Vassilii Zuiev show all the family united, the apparently happy parents, the four beautiful daughters and the handsome son. Few were those who were initiated into the intense suffering of the parents occasioned by the Heir to the Throne's hemophilia. The boy's illness would in due course bring Rasputin on the scene with tragic consequences for the Imperial family.
The two scenes from the Coronation festivities of 1896, the procession to Uspensky Cathedral and the Coronation of the Tsar were moments of glory for the Imperial couple. Yet the young Tsarevich Nicholas was unprepared for his adored father's sudden death. This shy, intensely private man, most happy in the circle of his close family was thrust, unwillingly, into the limelight. He was initially terrorized by his overbearing three uncles and disliked his time consuming, frustrating duties. The Coronation ceremonies were followed the next day by the tragic events on Khodynka Meadow with over 1,000 dead, crushed, due to the incompetence of the Governor General of Moscow, the Tsar's uncle Grand Duke Sergei. This was generally interpreted as a bad omen for Nicholas' reign.
Next in chronological order, is the miniature of the Huis ten Bosch at The Hague, the house at which the Peace Conference called by Nicholas in May 1899 was held. The participants were to agree on rules of warfare and establish a permanent court of arbitration. At this time the Tsar earned himself the title of The Peacemaker. Sadly, the arms race deplored by Nicholas was to involve the Tsar himself in a disastrous Russo Japanese War and lead him to fight his own belligerent cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II at the side of Russia's great French ally during the First World War, which ended with the disappearance of both great Empires.
The miniature of the Pont Alexandre III in Paris is shown with the Grand Palais in the background. Both buildings, which still stand today, were finished in time for the opening of the World Fair in early 1900. Nicholas and Alexandra had laid the foundation stone of the bridge in 1896, a visible symbol of the Franco-Russian alliance, among much fanfare. The Tsar and Tsarina were to have inaugurated the finished bridge at the opening of the World Fair on April 14, 1900, but were unable to attend some said that the Tsarina feared an assassination attempt. Instead, the bridge was inaugurated in their name by the Russian Ambassador, Prince Ouroussov.
Following the humiliating defeat at the hand of the Japanese in early 1905, the cruelly suppressed uprising of January 22, 1905 (Bloody Sunday), the ensuing strikes and the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei, a Manifest was issued on October 30, 1905 transforming Russia from an absolute autocracy into a semi-constitutional monarchy. In May 1906 Nicholas gave his famous speech opening the Duma in theThrone Room, St. George Hall, in the Winter Palace on April 27, 1906. Zuiev's miniature is a copy of the photograph recording this occasion. Sadly, this historic opportunity, which could have changed the course of history and which was joyfully welcomed by many, was missed, when the Duma, after what the Tsar and Tsarina found were too great demands, was dissolved.
The Museum of Tsar Alexander III or Russian Museum is located inthe New Michael Palace erected in 1819-1825 in the Tuscan style from designs by Carlo Rossi. It was built for the brother of Alexander I, Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. In 1893 Tsar Alexander III decided to give St. Petersburg a museum of Russian art, the equivalent to Moscow's Tretiakov Gallery. After his father's death, Nicholas II saw the project to its completion. The building was converted into a museum beginning in 1895 and opened in 1898. It originally contained a collection of 2,500 Russian works of art assembled from Imperial palaces, the Hermitage, the Academy of the Arts and private collections and was open free to the public. Among its many treasures were paintings by Repin, Konstantin Makovsky, Surikov and Serov. Its first director was Grand Duke George Michailovich assisted by Count D. I. Tolstoi. Today the museum contains over 370,000 works of art.
Following the birth of four daughters in 1895, 1897, 1899
and 1901, the Tsar and Tsarina, on the suggestion of Monsieur
Philippe (Philippe Nizier Vachot), a hypnotist and apparent
curer of nervous diseases, pressed for the Canonization of
Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), a hermit and monk associated
with many miraculous healings, including of two members of
the Imperial family. Zuiev's miniature shows the translation
of the remains of the Saint into the cathedral of Sarov on
July 19, 1903 in the presence of the Tsar, who recorded in
his diary that they carried the coffin on a litter in a procession
this time with the relics visible. One felt enormously
inspired. 2 The Tsarina
prayed for the Saint's intercession: the long-awaited male
heir wasborn in 1904. She was convinced that it was Seraphim
who had brought it about. 3
His birth, greeted with immense relief and joy, was to prove
a mixed blessing. The ill health of the hemophiliac boy brought
Rasputin on the scene, whose influence on the Tsarina and
on Russian politics was to speed up the downfall of the Romanov
The year 1909 marked the bicentenary of the Battle of Poltava, in which Peter the Great with an army of 42,000 men and seventy-two cannons defeated King Charles XII of Sweden with his 27,000 soldiers and only four cannon on June 27, 1709. Thus ended the Great War of the North, establishing the position of Russia in Europe and giving Russia control over the Balkan States. To mark the occasion a large stone cross was erected over the so-called Swedish Grave, a mound sixty-five feet high, where the 1,345 Russian soldiers who died in the battle were buried. The remaining 16,000 Swedes surrendered three days after the battle. A major celebration was held in Poltava in 1909 to commemorate the event.
Riga, situated at the mouth of the Dvina on the Baltic Sea was originally a German Hanseatic town, then Polish, and was captured by Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, in 1621. In front of the old town at the end of the Alexander Boulevard stands a bronze equestrian statue of Peter the Great by Schmidt-Cassel, which was unveiled in 1910. It commemorates the victory of the Russian armies under General Sheremetiev on July 4, 1710 over the Swedes after an eight months siege to the city. Following the Peace of Nystadt in 1721, Livonia and its capital, Riga, were incorporated into the Russian empire. In the early twentieth century, Riga was, after St. Petersburg, the most important Russian commercial and industrial town on the Baltic Sea, with a population of half a million inhabitants, exports worth 225 million rubles and imports of 155 million rubles.
Fabergé's egg was kept by the Empress in a corner cabinet of her Palisander Salon at the Alexander Palace (see p. 248, middle shelf, left), together with most of the Imperial eggs made after 1905, when the Imperial family chose the safety of Tsarskoie Selo over the Winter Palace. Little is known of the later fate of the egg.
1. Invoice illustrated in
Fabergé/Proler/Skulov 1997, p. 200 (GARF, 468, inv.
32, file 1663, p. 83).
2. Diary of Nicholas II GARF; Fond 601, op.1, D 246, L 1-198 (42f). Quoted from Wilmington 1998, p. 292.
3. Recollections of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. Quoted from Vorres 1985, p. 122.