Russian Imperial Easter Eggs
Russian imperial dynasty and its numerous royal and princely relatives in England, Denmark, Greece, Bulgaria, Hesse, Hannover received Russian Imperial Easter Eggs as a gift from Russia. These precious favors were appreciated and passed them on to future generations. After the First World War, the fall of the monarchy in Europe and the depletion of the aristocracy, many Faberge were sold and moved on to other owners. In the 1920s, to replenish the treasury currency, the Soviet government sold a number of works of art from public collections. From the imperial collection confiscated after 1917, were sold to a large part, probably, “absolutely useless” for the Soviet state unique Easter eggs.
The emergence of new for Russia materials related to the Petrine reforms, namely, porcelain, glass, papier-mache, contributed to the development of the art of making Russian Easter eggs. The first extant porcelain Easter egg “Easter” was created in 1749 by the inventor of Russian porcelain Dmitry Vinogradov. With the opening in 1748 porcelain, production of decorative eggs in Russia was put on an industrial basis. In 1749 Vinogradov wrote in his diary: “The eggs are sharpened and shaped.” From now and until the revolution the Imperial Porcelain Factory produced eggs.
The earliest of these was the egg depicting cupids, probably after a drawing by Francois Boucher, which refers to the middle of the XVIII century and is located in the State Russian Museum. Each Easter egg was handmade for members of the imperial family.
Porcelain eggs often were suspended and had a through hole, threaded with a ribbon with a bow at the bottom and with a loop at the top. These eggs were usually hung in the red corner, under the icon. Since the 1820s private porcelain factories of Russia also began to produce eggs.
In 1799, the Imperial Porcelain Factory produced 254 eggs, in 1802 – 960. At the beginning of the XX century the production reached 3308 eggs per year, made by thirty people, including students. By Easter 1914 produced 3991 porcelain egg, in 1916 – 15365 pieces. Most of them were designed for Easter greeting for the lower ranks in the army and parcels to the front. On such eggs depicted monogram of Emperor, or national emblem, or the Order of St. George (George Cross).
Under Alexander III and Nicholas II at the factory to each Easter were issued 100, and then 200 eggs with “monogram with the image of their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress.” Special attention was paid to technical excellence of these products for official gifts.
Sovereigns themselves sometimes acted as a kind of controllers: so Alexander III recommended to paint eggs with not only color, but also with ornaments, loved whole glass products with engraved pattern.
Easter eggs were made of papier-mache at the end of the XIX century, at Moscow factory of Lukutin, now famous Fedoskino factory of lacquer miniature painting. Along with religious subjects Wizards of factory of Lukutin often depicted on Easter eggs Orthodox churches and temples. One of the favorite subjects of masters was St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square. At the end of XIX – early XX century, along with the icons in the Moscow icon-painting workshops, educated immigrants from the traditional centers of Russian icon painting – Palekh, Mstera, Kholui, painted Easter eggs as well.
One of the first to combine an Easter egg with jewelry was Faberge. Carl Faberge name is most often associated with the brilliant art of decorative Easter eggs, the so-called “Easter surprise” – giftware with a hidden secret. It is assumed that the idea of creating them belonged to his younger brother Agafon Faberge, extraordinarily gifted artist who also had exceptional design capabilities. Carl Faberge was able to win the hearts of customers, pushing all competitors. His success – in the complexity of the design, originality and impeccable execution of these precious toys. Total from 1885 to 1917 were produced 56 “Easter surprises” on the orders of the imperial family. These were the gifts of Alexander III and Nicholas II to Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna.