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The Third Imperial Easter Egg

Given by Alexander III Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias to Empress Marie Feodorovna for Easter 1887.

The jewelled and ridged yellow gold Egg rests on its original tripod pedestal, with chased lion paw feet and encircled by coloured gold garlands suspended from cabochon blue sapphires topped with rose diamond set bows (one missing).

It contains a surprise of a lady’s watch by Vacheron Constantin, with a white enamel dial and openwork diamond set gold hands. The watch has been taken from its case to be mounted in the Egg and is hinged, allowing it to stand upright.

Made in the workshop of Fabergé’s Chief-Jeweller:
August Holmström, St. Petersburg, 1886-1887.
Height 8.2 cm.

Fifty Imperial Easter Eggs were delivered by Carl Fabergé to Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II from 1885 to 1916. The Third Imperial Easter Egg was until its rediscovery was among the eight lost Imperial Fabergé Eggs. This leaves only seven missing Easter Eggs .

‘… the Imperial Easter Eggs, surely one of the most extraordinary series of gifts ever conceived’
A. Kenneth Snowman, The Art Of Carl Fabergé, 1953

 Egg 3q view 2

‘In the Imperial Easter Eggs you see Fabergé at his very best …. nothing which has so far come from a goldsmith’s workshop surpasses these productions in craftsmanship and ingenuity’
Henry Bainbridge; Carl Fabergé’s London agent.

On the 8th February 1889 the Third Imperial Easter Egg was included in a Russian Imperial Cabinet list of the Eggs supplied by Fabergé to Emperor Alexander III as,

‘1887 -Easter Egg with clock, decorated with diamonds, sapphires and rose cut diamonds 2160 r(oubles)’

The Cabinet’s account books contain an earlier note made on the 18th May 1887 of a payment of 2160 roubles to Fabergé for the same ‘egg with clock’.

 

The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg displayed among Marie Feodorovna's Fabergé treasures in the Von Dervis Mansion Exhibition, St. Petersburg, March 1902.
The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg displayed among Marie Feodorovna’s Fabergé treasures in the Von Dervis Mansion Exhibition, St. Petersburg, March 1902.

 

In March 1902 the Third Imperial Egg was shown in the charity exhibition held at the Von Dervis exhibition on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg

The Provisional Russian government recorded the Egg among the confiscated Imperial treasures transferred from the Empress Maria’s Anichkov Palace to the Moscow Kremlin Armoury in September 1917. The following record of its transfer from the Kremlin’s archive was provided by Tatiana Muntian and is noted here for first time:

Art. 1548. “A lady’s gold watch, opened and set into a gold egg with one diamond. The latter on a gold tripod pedestal with three sapphires.” Number 1644 “

Between 17th February and 24th March 1922 responsibility for the Eggs was transferred from the Kremlin Armoury to the special plenipotentiary of the Council of People’s Commissars, Ivan Gavrilovich Chinariov.

Article 68/1548 of the transfer is described as ‘One gold egg with watch, diamond push-piece and pedestal with 3 sapphires and rose cut diamonds.’

Two years later, in May 1924, the egg was listed  in a Soviet valuation of eighteen Easter Eggs to be sold.  It is described twice and sketched once in the documents now held by the Goznak Joint Stock Company in St. Petersburg. The detailed study of the documents presented at the Sate Hermitage Musuem in 2023 by Andrey Bogdanov (Goznak,  JSC, St. Petersburg) Dmitry Krivoshey  Lomonosov (Moscow State University), Anna Palmade, Vincent Palmade, and Valentin Skurlov can be read here.

One of the 1924 entries for the Egg in the Goznak’s archive.

In 2011 Vincent and Anna Palmade discovered the Egg survived beyond 1924. It had made its way to the West and entered the collection of a New Yorker named Mrs Rena Clark. Her chattels were sold by Parke Bernet in New York, on 7th March 1964. Among them, listed without its provenance was the egg. It sold for $2,450 and the catalogue entry read:

Gold Watch in egg- form case on wrought three- tone gold stand set with jewels, fourteen Karat gold watch in reeded egg shaped case with seventy-five point old mine clasp by Vacheron Constantin; on eighteen karat three-tone gold stand exquisitely wrought with an annulus, bordered with wave scrollings and pairs of corbel like legs cisele with a capping of roses, pendants of tint leaves depending to animalistic feet with ring stretcher: the annulus bears three medallions of cabochon sapphires surmounted by tiny bow knotted ribbons set with minute diamonds, which support very finely cisele three-tone gold swags of roses and leaves which continue downward and over the pairs of legs. Height 31/4 inches.

 

The illustration of the Third Imperial Egg in the Parke Bernet Catalogue of March 1964.

The Egg remained in the USA and was later bought for $14,000. The purchaser was unaware of its provenance and the price paid was calculated solely on its intrinsic value.

The Third Egg was subsequently acquired by private collector via Wartski and exhibited at the firm’s premises in April 2014.  It had last been shown over 112 years earlier in The Von Dervis exhibition.

 

“We doubt everything but this story is so wonderful you couldn’t really make it up – it is beyond fiction and in the legends of antique dealing, there is nothing quite like this.”

Kieran McCarthy quoted by Reuters.