THE SCANDINAVIAN EGG: A FABERGÉ VARICOLOR GOLD AND TRANSLUCENT ENAMEL EASTER EGG,WORKMASTER MICHAEL PERCHIN, ST. PETERSBURG, 1899-1903
translucent strawberry red over a guilloché ground,
bisected by a red gold band applied with a chased green gold
border of laurel, the egg opening horizontally to reveal a
white enamel interior resembling the white of an egg and a
matte yellow enameled “yolk,” the yolk hinged and opening
to reveal a suede fitted compartment holding a naturalistically
enameled gold hen painted primarily in shades of brown with
touches of gray and white, when lifted at the beak the hen
opens horizontally, the hinge concealed in the tail feathers,
marked with Cyrillic initials of workmaster and 56 standard
for 14 karat gold, also with scratched inventory number 5356.
The present Easter egg is one of a series of hen-and-egg
creations by Fabergé, of which a small number have
survived. The nearest parallel is the more lavish Kelch Hen
Egg (p. 288), which closely resembles the present example
but for the fact that it lies on its side and is not embellished
with diamonds. Both eggs are otherwise virtually identical
with their red guilloché enamel exteriors,
their opaque white enamel “whites,” their opaque yellow enamel
“yolks” and their varicolored painted hens with rose-cut diamond
eyes. Both are by Michael Perchin and date from between 1899
and 1903. Other naturally shaped Easter eggs include the First
Hen Egg of 1885 (p. 74), the first of the Imperial series
and two unmarked eggs, one of lapis lazuli containing a crown
in its yolk (Cleveland Museum of Art)
1 and an egg with platinum
shell, hen, crown and ring, attributed to Erik Kollin (Fine
Arts Museum, New Orleans), 2 which
is undoubtedly not Russian.
The present egg was discovered in an Oslo bank safe by the
present author in 1980 among the effects of Maria Quisling
(1900-1980), the widow of Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945). They
lived in a mansion at Bygdøy in Olso, which he called
Gimle after the Hall of Gimle, the most beautiful place on
earth according to Norse mythology.
Vidkun Quisling was the son of Jon Quisling, a Lutheran priest
and well-known genealogist. A major in the Norwegian army,
Quisling served as Military Attaché in Petrograd in
1918-1919, where he probably acquired the present egg, and
in Helsinki in 1919-1920. He later worked with Fridtjof Nansen
in the Soviet Union during the famine in the 1930s. Quisling
served as Minister of Defence in 1931-1933 and founded the
fascist Norwegian Socialist party, the Nasjonal Samling,
in 1933 together with State Attorney Johann Bernhard
Hjort. He became the leader of this originally religiously
rooted party, which became outspokenly pro-German and anti-Semitic
from 1935 onward.When Hitler's armies invaded Norway on April
9, 1940, Quisling supported the Führer's new Reichskommissar
Joseph Terboven and became Prime Minister in 1942. After
the German surrender in 1945, he was tried as a traitor and
executed by firing squad.
The origin of the hen-in-an-egg Easter present harks back
to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Three very similar
jewelled eggs have survived, each formerly in a royal treasury.
The best known, due to its traditional association with Fabergé's
First Hen Egg, is an egg in the Chronological Collection of
the Queen of Denmark at Rosenborg Castle (p. 84), Copenhagen;
another is in the Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna, as part
of the Habsburg Collections; yet another is listed among the
treasures of the Grünes Gewölbe , the Green
Vaults in the Castle of the Elector-Kings of Saxony (Private
Collection, both illustrated on p. 84). All three have yolks
containing hens, which open to reveal a crown within which
nestles diamond-set ring. All three are thought to have originated
in Paris, dating from the 1720s. 3
The theme remained popular throughout the nineteenth century.
As the present egg is not listed among the Imperial presents,
it was probably privately commissioned in St. Petersburg.Other
documented, privately owned eggs by Fabergé include
the series of seven Kelch eggs, of which the 1898 Kelch Hen
Egg (p. 288) was the first and the 1904 Kelch Chanticleer
Egg (p. 306) the last; the Nobel Ice Egg 4
circa 1914; the 1902 Duchess of Marlborough Egg; and
the 1907 Sandoz Youssoupov Egg 5.
1. Hawley 1967, cat. 32.
2. Keefe1993, cat. LI.
3. For illustrations of all three,
see Mogens Bencard, The Hen in the Egg , Amalienborg,
4. Forbes/Tromeur 1999, pp. 70-71.
5. Munich 1986/7, cat. 543.