By the Forbes.com staff, www.Forbes.com website
New York, New York, January 7, 2004
NEW YORK - The largest private collection of Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs
is to go under the hammer in April. One piece, The Coronation Egg, presented
by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife at Easter 1897, would be the most expensive
piece of decorative art to be sold at auction if it realizes the upper end
of its estimated sales range of $18 million to $24 million.
The pieces all come from the Forbes Collection, owned by the Forbes family,
publishers of this Web site.
The Eggs were first commissioned from the House of Faberge by Tsar
Alexander III in 1885 as an Easter gift to his wife. The tradition was
continued by his son, Tsar Nicholas II, and the pieces have become a
byword for treasures of rarity and value.
The Forbes collection of Faberge Eggs was started by Malcolm S. Forbes,
the late father of the present generation of owners. In announcing the
auction, the family said: "The Faberge Collection was one of the great
passions of our father's life. The acquisitions, the auctions and its
assembly were extraordinary adventures for all of us.
"For the past 14 years, since his death, we have continued to share this
wonderful Collection with the public in the Forbes Galleries and in shows
around the world. As our father said in his book, More Than I Dreamed: A
Lifetime of Collecting, 'I've often told my children I hope that, if they
decide to be done with one of the collections, they will put it back on the
auction block so that other people can have the same vast fun and excitement
that we did in amassing it.'
The family has now decided it is time for us to make this unique treasure
trove available to other collectors so they may have the thrill of owning a
rare and exquisite work of Faberge . Also, the sale will allow each of us
to pursue our own individual interests, something our family has always
There are 50 Imperial Easter Eggs in the world, including the nine owned by
the Forbes family. Ten are in the Moscow Kremlin Collection; five are at the
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va.; Britain's Queen Elizabeth
owns three. Others are in the United States, Switzerland and Monaco. The
whereabouts of eight is unknown.
The Forbes auction, which will include 180 other Faberge pieces from the
family's collection, will be conducted by Sotheby's on April 20 and 21 in
New York. A presale public exhibition opens on April 12 .
CUCKOO (COCKEREL) EGG 1900
Varicolored gold, enamel, diamonds, rubies, pearls, feathers
HEIGHT: 8 inches; 20.3 cm open
MARKS: Faberge, initials of work master Michael Perchin, assay-mark of
St. Petersburg 1896-1908, 56 (zolotnik), dated 1900
CASE: Fitted tan leather Wartski case, lid lining stamped in gold: By
Appointment to/H.M. The Queen/Jewellers/Wartski/138, Regent St./London
Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria
Feodorovna, on Easter 1900, this egg in the form of a Baroque table clock is
enameled violet over a guilloche zigzag ground. Embellished with ornate
motifs, the diamond-set dial is wreathed by seed pearls and set against a
panel of white enamel enveloped by gold foliage, pearls and diamonds.
If the Dowager Empress wanted to reveal the hidden treasure within, she
simply needed to press the button at the top rear of the egg to open the
circular gold grille and a naturally plumed cockerel would emerge crowing
and flapping its wings.
CORONATION EGG 1897
Varicolored gold, platinum, enamel, diamonds, rubies,
rock crystal, velvet lining
SHELL: Length: 5 inches; 12.7 cm
COACH : Length: 3 11/16 inches; 9.4 cm
MARKS Initials of work master Henrik Wigstrom, assay-mark of St. Petersburg
1896-1908, the name Wigstrom roughly scratched on the inner surface of the
shell, 56 (zolotnik), dated 1897
Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna on Easter
1897, the Coronation Egg is one of the most celebrated Imperial eggs created
by the House of Faberge. Enameled a deep gold hue and adorned with a trellis
of diamond-set Imperial eagles, the breathtaking design was inspired by the
gold-embroidered and ermine-trimmed robes worn by the Imperial couple during
When opened, the surprise inside the egg is a removable replica of the coach
that carried Alexandra to the coronation ceremony. At one time a glimpse
through the carriage's windows revealed a tiny egg-shaped emerald and
diamond-set pendant, but the current whereabouts of this jeweled surprise is
RENAISSANCE EGG 1894
Gold, white agate, enamel, diamonds, rubies
LENGTH: 5 1/4 inches; 13.3 cm
MARKS: Faberge, initials of work master Michael Perchin, assay-mark of St.
Petersburg before 1896, 56 (zolotnik), dated 1894
The translucent milky white egg was the last Easter present Tsarina Maria
Feodorovna would receive from her beloved husband, who died eight months
later. The agate stone creates a breathtaking shell against which a jeweled
and enameled trellis of decorative motifs shimmers.
Chased gold lions on either end guard the precious treasure, but what the
Tsarina would find inside is a mystery since the whereabouts and nature of
the egg's surprise are unknown.
FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY EGG 1911
Gold, enamel, diamonds, rock crystal
HEIGHT: 5 1/8 inches; 13 cm without stand
MARKS: Initials of work master Henrik Wigstrom, assay-mark of St.
Petersburg 1908-1917; Faberge, dated 1894, 1911, 72 (zolotnik)
CASE: Original fitted velvet-covered, egg-shaped, lid lining stamped in
black: Eagle/ Faberge /St. Petersburg/Moscow/London
Made to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II's accession to
the throne, the egg presented in 1911 to Tsarina Alexandra is perhaps the
most personal of all those crafted by the House of Faberge. Displaying its
surprise on its exterior, 18 superbly painted scenes illustrate the
principal events of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra's reign as well
as individual portraits of the recipient, her husband and their five
children. The dates 1894 and 1911 are set beneath the portraits of the
Tsarina and the Tsar, respectively.
HEN EGG (FIRST IMPERIAL EGG) 1885
Varicolored gold, enamel, rubies
SHELL: Length: 2 1/2 inches; 6.4 cm
YOLK: Diameter: 1 9/16 inches; 4 cm
HEN: Length: 1 3/8 inches; 3.5 cm
MARKS: Although unmarked, the egg is attributed to work master Erik Kollin.
Presented by Tsar Alexander III to Tsarina Maria Feodorovna on Easter 1885,
this is the first Easter egg crafted by the House of Faberge. Once the white
matte enamel shell is cracked open, a removable gold yolk is disclosed,
which in turn separates in half to reveal a varicolored gold hen with ruby
A gentle push under the bird's beak revealed the final surprise inside, a
miniature ruby egg-shaped pendant suspended within a diamond-set replica of
the Imperial crown. The current whereabouts of this treasure is unknown.
LILIES OF THE VALLEY EGG 1898
Gold, ormolu (gilded bronze), vermeil (gilded silver),
enamel, diamonds, rubies, pearls, rock crystal
HEIGHT: 7 7/8 inches; 20 cm open
MARKS: Initials of work master Michael Perchin, assay-mark of St. Petersburg
before 1896, 56 (zolotnik), miniatures dated 5 / IV [April 5] 1898
Inspired by Tsarina Alexandra's favorite flower, the pink enameled egg
presented on Easter 1898 is decorated with lily of the valley pearl and
diamond-set blossoms. These delicate sprays are nestled among green enameled
leaves that conceal a pearl "button" that causes the ruby and diamond-set
Imperial crown to raise.
To the Tsarina's delight, hidden beneath the finial is a trio of portraits
representing her husband and their two eldest daughters, the Grand Duchesses
Olga and Tatiana. The date of the egg's presentation, April 5, 1898, is
engraved on the reverse of the surprise.
ORANGE TREE EGG (BAY TREE EGG) 1911
Gold, enamel, nephrite, diamonds, citrines, amethysts, rubies, pearls,
agate, feathers; original silver gilt key
HEIGHT: 1 3/4 inches; 29.8 cm open
MARKS: Faberge, dated 1911
CASE: Fitted red morocco; exterior stamped with the gold initials A.G.H.
Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna
on Easter 1911, a silver gilt key allowed the Dowager Empress to discover
the surprise hidden within the egg-shaped topiary tree. Tucked within the
finely engraved nephrite leaves, enameled flowers and jeweled "fruit" is a
gold winding mechanism.
When triggered, a portion of the foliage at the top of the tree rises.
Suddenly, music fills the air as a feathered nightingale emerges to chirp
its tune while moving its beak and flapping its wings. When the melody
ends, the bird descends automatically into its verdant nest until beckoned
once more to sing.
ORDER OF ST. GEORGE EGG 1916
Silver, gold, enamel, rock crystal
HEIGHT: 3 5/16 inches; 8.4 cm without stand
MARKS: Faberge, dated 1916
CASE: Original fitted velvet-covered egg-shaped; lid lining stamped in
gold: Eagle/K. Faberge /Petrograd/Moscow/Odessa/London
Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna on
Easter 1916, the egg commemorates the 1915 presentation of the Order of St.
George. The Order was created by Catherine the Great to be bestowed by
members of the army for military bravery. Nicholas II was presented with the
highest class of the Order for his leadership during the First World War.
His 12-year-old son, Alexis, who had joined him at army headquarters,
received a lower grade of the decoration. A ribbon in the Order's colors of
black and orange encircle representations of the medals presented to the
Tsar and Tsarevich. When a button is pressed, painted miniatures of the
honored recipients are revealed under their respective awards.
Soon after receiving the egg, Maria Feodorovna was forced into exile. The
Order of St. George Egg was hidden in a jewel box she carried while fleeing
the country. It was the only Imperial egg to leave Russia in the possession
of its original recipient
ROSEBUD EGG 1895
Varicolored gold, enamel, diamonds, velvet lining
SHELL: Height: 2 5/8 inches; 6.7 cm
ROSEBUD: Length: 1 3/16 inches; 3 cm
MARKS: Faberge, initials of work master Michael Perchin, assay-mark
of St. Petersburg, 56 (zolotnik), dated 1895
Continuing the tradition established by his father, the Rosebud Egg was the
first Faberge egg presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his bride Alexandra.
Unlike previous Easter gifts, which on average took a year to complete, the
House of Faberge had only a few short months to create this present for the
newly crowned Tsarina.
Carefully designed to please its recipient, the translucent red-enameled
exterior is decorated with Cupid's arrows and contains a miniature portrait
of Tsar Nicholas II viewed through a table-cut diamond. Once opened, the
egg reveals a yellow enameled rosebud, which blooms to disclose a ruby
and diamond-set Imperial crown. The whereabouts of this final surprise is
Forbes Magazine Online, NY, NY, January 7, 2004
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