Imperial Russian Easter Egg

© The Royal Archivist. Please do not duplicate. Russian easter egg made in Moscow by the Firm of Khlebnikov for the Imperial Family.

Fabergé was not the only firm creating colorful and imaginative eggs. This enameled easter egg was made in Moscow by the Firm of Khlebnikov for the Russian Imperial Family.

Khlebnikov was founded in 1865 by Ivan Khlebnikov in St. Petersburg, but later moved its headquarters to Moscow. After Khlebnikov’s death in 1888, his four sons ran the successful firm. Known for its silver and decorative arts pieces, the firm held an imperial warrant from 1879 until the Russian Revolution when it ceased to exist.

Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post, an American socialite and business woman, purchased priceless decorative arts pieces and jewelry when she joined her diplomat husband, the second US ambassador to the USSR, in Moscow. She returned home to Washington, D.C. not only with this egg, but countless other treasures such as the Russian Nuptial Crown worn by the last Russian tsarina.

The Firm of Khlebnikov was prolific and from time to time you may find the firm’s silver or other decorative arts at auctions around the world.

Sources

Hillwood Museum

The Imperial Easter Eggs at Hillwood Museum

© The Royal Archivist. Please do not duplicate.

Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., the home of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, is a treasure trove. Two of the most unique decorative arts pieces nestled within its dazzling walls are imperial Easter eggs created by Peter Carl Fabergé and his workmasters. 

Mrs. Post, as wife to the second ambassador to the USSR, Joseph E. Davies, purchased numerous Russian treasures of imperial provenance during her time in Moscow.

In 1885, Alexander III began the annual tradition of commissioning Fabergé for intricate Easter eggs as gifts for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. After his death, his son, Nicholas II continued the tradition by purchasing two eggs every year for Easter. One for his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The second, for his wife, Tsarina Alexandra. 

This decades-long tradition produced more than fifty eggs, two of which made their way into Mrs. Post’s collection.

© The Royal Archivist. Please do not duplicate.

Commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II and presented to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1896, the diamond-studded Twelve Monogram Easter Egg (also known as the Imperial Monogram Egg) is decorated with the Cyrillic initials of Alexander III and Maria Feodorovna. The initials are made entirely of rose-cute diamonds and are set against a dark-blue enameled background. Fabergé and his workmasters were especially skilled in enameling. The surprise inside the egg was a frame holding six tiny portraits of Alexander III. Sadly, the surprise is now lost to history. Maria Feodorovna was immensely pleased. In a letter to Nicholas II she wrote, “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.”

© The Royal Archivist. Please do not duplicate.

Commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II and presented to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1914, the Catherine the Great Easter Egg has pink translucent enameled panels showcasing allegorical scenes of the arts and sciences. Four smaller panels contain scenes from the four seasons. According to a letter written by the Dowager Empress to her sister, Queen Alexandra, the surprise inside the egg was a seated Catherine the Great. Catherine the Great was a lover of the arts and sciences, so it makes sense that she would have been the surprise. However, by the time this egg made it to the collection of Mrs. Post, the surprise was also lost to history. In older literature, you may see this egg listed as the Imperial Cameo Egg. 

Sources

Hillwood Museum Exhibit: Fabergé Rediscovered 

Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths (1989) by Gerard Hill