Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Fabergé’s 1896 Imperial Easter Egg in Alexandra’s Study in the Winter Palace
The 1896 Fabergé Imperial Easter Egg was on the top shelf of the vitrine in Empress Alexandra’s study on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace.
Fabergé’s April 12th, 1896 invoice describes a ‘Rock Crystal Egg … with 12 miniatures’. It is listed as #192 'Egg made of white rock crystal … the frames contain different miniature landscapes on both sides' on N. Dementiev’s April 10th,, 1909 inventory.
The Provisional Government directed F. Golovin on May 10th, 1917 to prepare an inventory of ‘items of great value’ in their Majesties Winter Palace rooms. Karl Fabergé, a member of the commission compiling the numbered list, handled the Imperial Eggs as a former court supplier.
Fabergé described the vitrine's four Eggs on the top shelf: 1900, 1898, 1902 and ‘An egg white rock crystal’. It is a mystery why Fabergé did not date the egg as he did with all the others in the vitrine.
After Hammer Galleries acquired the egg, it became widely known as the 1896 Egg With Revolving Miniatures. An undated letter from Hammer to Lillian Pratt describes the egg with “… twelve handpainted miniatrues on ivory, signed, by Zehngraf …” Attached with it is a note 'See photographs of miniatures in inside of crystal ball of Russin Imperial Easter Egg. The writing on the back of the photographs which gives location of the residences is said to be the handwriting of Queen Mary'. [http://www.wintraecken.nl/mieks/faberge/research/1896-Miniatures.htm]
There is no artist signature visible on the Winter Palace miniature (below). On the upper right, there is a gap. It appears the miniature had been pried out, revealing the handwriting noted above, causing damage when replaced.
The miniature is a replica of the photograph (below) of the Winter Palace c1890 with the three figures on the quay! The Danish artist, Johannes Zehngraf, eliminated the fence and added the ventilation tower built in 1895.