A small museum, ready to be discovered.
Russia has been one of my always-wanted-to-go countries ever since I was young, because of several funny reasons like the Lomo Camera was invented here, and Russia was the originated place of the animation ‘Anastasia’ in 1997.
I love this film so much that I could say it brought me here today. It introduced me to the world of Fabergé, one of the prestigest jewellery houses in the world. When I finally had a trip to Russia, no surprise I need to visit the Fabergé Museum which is located in Saint Petersburg.
Fabergé Museum is located at Shuvalov Palace near Fontanka River. Inside, there separated into many rooms. Each room was named after the colour and decoration, such as Red Room, Beige Room and Gold Room. However, the first highlight here is Blue room. The one that displayed 9 Imperial Easter Eggs created by the house of Fabergé.
The brief history of Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs started during Easter day in 1885. When Emperor Tsar Alexander III demanded a special gift for his beloved Empress Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. Fabergé was selected to serve this purpose because of the renowned reputation at the moment.
The first Fabergé Imperial Easter egg was inspired by the old jewellery box of Tsarina Maria, which had the shape like an egg. Fabergé used its form and developed the idea by putting the ‘Surprise’ inside. It was a golden hen, that provided a function as a container.
The more Tsarina Maria loved this prestige gift, brought more delight to the Tsar’s heart. The Emperor Tsar Alexander III then asked Fabergé to continue producing an egg in every year after. The really first egg was called Hen Egg, or straightforwardly called The First Imperial Egg (made in 1885).
Besides the aesthetic value and the uncountable price, each Fabergé egg represents a statement that tells history and performs the symbol of significant situations of Russia, during the time before the changing of government.
The relationship in the royal family was always the inspiration for Fabergé, but sometimes they took the believe in religion into action. Due to Russia has a different national religion from other countries in Europe, they believe in Russian Orthodox.
Resurrection Egg (1885-1889), as you can see in the photo above, was one of the Imperial Easter eggs that related to religion. It was assumed to be the surprise inside the Renaissance Egg (1894), because of its size and style of decoration. Also there was neither proof nor written evidence saying what its surprise was. Fabergé Museum also put the two eggs together on display, which conveyed the audiences to this assumption.
One day, Emperor Tsar Alexander III had suddenly passed away. Tsarevich Nicholas, the crown prince at the moment, later had ascended the throne as Emperor Tsar Nicholas II. However, the new Tsar had continued to maintain this Easter tradition, by ordering 2 Fabergé Easter eggs. One for his dowager mother, and the new one for his beloved wife Empress Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna.
Rosebud Egg (1895) was the first Fabergé Imperial egg that Tsar Nicholas II had ever given to Tsarina Alexandra. The surprise inside was the yellow-enameled rosebud, which represents not only blooming atmosphere between lovebirds but also the symbol of new beginning in many auspicious occasions. For instance, the starting of new era and the new throne of Russian Empire.
The accession to the throne is very important to countries that ruled by the royal institution. Due to no one knows when it is going to happen, it depends on how many years each King rules the country. There is no specific period of time to this position, unlike the countries ruled by presidents. Moreover, the royal ceremony and national celebration will be attractively decorated. In the time of Emperor Tsar Nicholas II, this procedure lasted for 5 hours and there were 101 salutes.
The remarkable ceremony had finally became The Coronation Egg (1897), to remind and remember this significant moment for royal family and the country. Fabergé had created the miniature of horse carriage, that Tsar and Tsarina had rode on that day. The piece was tiny but completely decorated with every delicate detail.
The making procedure of each Imperial egg was such challenge for Fabergé. Not to mention that they had to work against the limited of time each year, to produce this prestige gifts just before Easter. However, Fabergé had always explored their creativity on new techniques and varied materials. And the final result was phenomenal success.
A year after, Lilies of the Valley Egg (1898) was presented to the Tsar. This Imperial Egg was created in Art Nouveau style, in which reflected the talented and professional skills of craftsmen. Due to this design needs the scent of natural lines, curved and sentimental, which is not easy to manipulate the gold metal into this such organic form. However Fabergé beautifully and miraculously did it.
The surprise of Lilies of the Valley Egg is on the top. It needs to be pulled up from above and there would appear the miniature portraits of the Tsar and his beloved two eldest daughters, Grand Duchess Olga and Grand Ducchess Tatiana.
Only fundamental mechanic was not challenge Fabergé enough, they had stepped forward to something even more complicated. They put more creativity onto kinetic technique. Cockerel (1900) was the Imperial egg that obviously shows the genius of Fabergé very well. Its surprise was little more special, apart from a function as a table clock, there was a little bird singing and moving on top of the egg! This huge success was caused by hard work and dedication, that gain reputation and reliance from clients all over the world.
In fact, in 1900 was actually the glorious time for Fabergé. The house was selected by Tsar Nicholas II, in the name of Russia, to display in the World Expo 1900 in Paris. This event had made Fabergé gone further than ever and gain thousands of millionaire clients.
However to Fabergé, the Romanov was always the most important relation. Not only the Imperial Easter Eggs, but Tsar Nicholas II had also placed hundred of orders, demanding prestige gifts in varied type of products including souvenirs, home decors and everyday objects, as gifts to the royalties and loyal courtiers.
In an auspicious occasion that Emperor Tsar Nicholas II had rules Russian Empire for 15 years. Fabergé had created and presented the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg (1911) to celebrate this glorious moment altogether. The egg showcased portraits of the royal family members, memorable places, and remarkable moments in the past 15 years. There was the reason why Fabergé put no surprise inside, because the surprise was already out there on the eggshell.
According to the tradition that there would be another egg in the same year, for giving to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. At Fabergé Museum, there also displayed Bay tree Egg which was the counterpart of the year 1911.
In the meantime, there was some critical situation happened. The reason was because of Rusputin, the priest who interfered in the royal court. At first he was introduced as a doctor who offered the help to Tsarevich Alexei, but after he could incredibly help and make the condition of the crown prince better. He got all the trust and many privileges from Tsarina Alexandra and that secretly displeased many courtiers.
Also at the same time, the World War I occurred. Due to the population and geography, Russia was one of the biggest and strongest countries. However there were several situations that brought the trust in Russian army down. Russia was beaten by Japan, a small-island country in Asia. This incident maddened the Russian people and made them doubt in Ruler’s capability. Moreover, even though it was during war, the courtiers still lived their life as luxurious as usual. Ultimately, the perception of Russian people to the royal institution was considerably decrease.
During World War I, Emperor Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarevich Alexei had joined the army in the front line and it was the inspiration of the last Imperial egg at the Fabergé Museum.
Order of St. George Egg (1916) has some specific details. First, instead of being made with precious material, it was crafted with copper and decorated only with colour-enameled technique. Second, it was the last Imperial Easter egg that Tsar Nicholas II gave to his mother just before the saddest tragedy happened.
Its surprise was 2 windows, opposite to each other, that can be opened and see the portraits of Emperor Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarevich Alexei. The name ‘Order of St. George’ came from the military title they both received. This Imperial egg played a role of souvenir to dowager Empress Maria. For her to remember her son and grandson, when they went on battle field.
But at last, the Tsar could not solve all the problems and was no longer Russian people favourite. The royal family was replaced by the temporary government, before all of them were executed along with the loyal courtiers. It was the end of the Romanov dynasty who ruled Russia for more than 300 years.
Actually it has been 100 years exactly from then until now. Moreover in the year 2017 is also 20 year-anniversary for Anastasia animation, the first inspiration for myself.
Although all the glory of Romanov dynasty would be seen only in the past, but the historic evidences and cultural traces in those day were still reflected and appeared until now. Today Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs were the rare items and become the art pieces with the highest price. Some pieces were missing through the time, but with fairy-tale history, delicate details and the Russian distinguished identity. All of these brought Fabergé’s pieces to life, and are still as fascinated as they were 100 years ago.