This is one of the series of fifty Imperial Easter Eggs made by Fabergé for the Russian imperial family between 1885 and 1917. It demonstrates the extraordinary craftsmanship of Fabergé’s team of designers, jewellers, goldsmiths and enamellers. The design of the flower motif is inspired by petit-point embroidery, while each of the tiny precious stones is precisely cut and calibrated to fit the platinum mesh of which the egg is constructed. The medallion on a jewelled stand (the ‘surprise’) painted with the portraits of the five children of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra fits inside the egg and was revealed when the egg was opened on Easter day.
Technically one of the most sophisticated and extraordinary of Fabergé’s Imperial Easter Eggs, the Mosaic Egg retains its ‘surprise’. It takes the form of a medallion painted on ivory with the portraits of the five children of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra on one side and a basket of flowers and their names on the other, on a stand surmounted by the Russian imperial crown, held within the egg by gold clips.
The egg was theTsar’s Easter gift to his wife in 1914, but the original invoice was destroyed and the cost is therefore unknown. The Tsarina’s monogram and the date 1914 are set beneath a moonstone at the apex of the egg. It comprises a platinum mesh into which tiny diamonds, rubies, topaz, sapphires, demantoid garnets, pearls and emeralds are fitted – perfectly cut, polished and calibrated to fill the spaces.This extraordinary technical feat is all the more impressive because the platinum is not welded but cut.The five oval panels around the centre of the egg feature a stylised floral motif, replicating the technique of petit-point.
In the list of confiscated treasures transferred from the Anichkov Palace to the Sovnarkom in 1922, the egg is described thus: ‘1 gold egg as though embroidered on canvas’. The designer, AlmaTheresia Pihl, was inspired to produce the needlework motif when watching her mother-in-law working at her embroidery by the fire. Alma Pihl came from a distinguished family of Finnish jewellers employed by Fabergé. Her uncle, Albert Holmström, took over his father August’s workshop and was the workmaster responsible for the production of this bejewelled egg. The egg was confiscated in 1917 and sold by the Antikvariat in 1933 for 5,000 roubles. It was purchased by King George V from Cameo Corner, London, on 22 May 1933for £250 ‘half-cost’, probably for Queen Mary’s birthday on 26 May.
The Mosaic Egg is one of numerous Faberge treasures currently on display at the Treasures from the Queen's Palaces exhibit in the Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. The exhibition runs until 4th November, 2012.
© The Royal Collection. 18 March, 2012