Sunday, April 4, 2010

Egg-straodinary Easter Eggs

by Caren Crane (title by my older daughter)

Easter is the time for eggs. Hand-tinted hard-boiled eggs, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, candy-coated sugar-centered eggs, and - my favorite - good old pure chocolate eggs. As a matter of fact, I had planned to do a whole post about candy eggs for today, but my husband had a totally different idea (as he so often does). He said I should write about Faberge Easter eggs.

I have long been fascinated by Faberge eggs and it seems many other people are as well. PBS did a great program about the Faberge eggs as part of their
Treasures Of the World series. In the series, they presented the Faberge eggs as the relics of a fragile and doomed monarchy. They are regarded today as a symbol of just how out-of-touch the monarchy was and how little they understood the needs of the people they ruled. I found out my husband really wanted me to find out why Peter Carl Faberge began making Easter eggs in the first place. So I did and here is the quick and dirty version.

The Russian Orthodox church had a tradition that after Easter mass, family members would present each other with eggs they had decorated. The first egg commissioned by Czar Alexander III was a gift for the Czarina, commemorating the 20th anniversary of their monarchy on Easter in 1884. After his death in 1894, Czar Nicholas II (knowing only to follow the traditions of his much-beloved father) continued all of his father's traditions including the commission of the eggs.

Of course, the monarchy failed in 1917 and the Romanovs were all killed...except for the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna, who hastily departed her homeland on the British battleship Malborough. She took with her the Order of St. George egg - the last Faberge Imperial Easter egg. The entrepreneur and socialist sympathizer Armand Hammer brought many great Russian treasures to the United States to be sold to support the Bolsheviks in 1931. Unfortunately, the Great Depression made selling them difficult. Eventually, though, they caught on with several great collectors and many are in private art collections today.

Of the 50 Imperial Easter eggs, only 10 remain in the Kremlin. Eight of the eggs are still missing, having disappeared during the sacking of the royal palaces during the revolution.

So what do you think happened to those 8 missing eggs? Are they hidden in humble homes in the Russian countryside? Resting in vaults of wealthy art collectors who bought them on the black market? As symbols of a decadent and lavish lifestyle that led to the downfall of Imperial Russia, should they be handed over to the Russian government? When you finish nibbling the ears off your chocolate bunny, let us know!


limecello said...


limecello said...

Ok, no idea on the Faberge eggs- but they're all lovely.
I'll think about it "later" - as in after I've gone to sleep... and of course had some Easter chocolate.

The GR is wearing me out :P Think I'm done for a while? Maybe? :X

Mitzi H. said...

I think if they were still out there (somewhere) they would have shown up by now???? I fear they were stolen by someone that buried his treasure thinking he would return to it at a later date...only he didn't survive and his treasure remains buried???

It's as good a guess as any perhaps??? They are so beautiful....and I hope they are not lost forever or were destroyed!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Lime, at it again?

Caren, what a gorgeous post! I too am fascinated by the Faberge Easter Eggs (find it a bit simplistic that they're symbols of an out of touch monarchy!). I haven't seen that PBS show you mention but there was a show on our cable network last year about the guy who owned Forbes magazine selling his collection back to a Russian oil millionaire who is going to put them on display for people to see them. They were just breathtaking. I remember many years ago, there was a Russian artefacts exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. No eggs, sadly, but I remember there were a couple of Faberge pieces including a frosted glass hippo. Doesn't sound spectacular but it was absolutely perfect in all its tininess. As you know, I'm a great Antiques Roadshow fan and every so often, some Faberge turns up - a lot of aristocrats and bourgeoisie found refuge in London after the Revolution. Always get a thrill when I see it!

Helen said...

He is enjoying being at your place lime have a great Easter


I gotta say those eggs are beautiful and yes while people are starving they really shouldn't have been made but they were and they are a part of Russia's history and where the missing 8 are who knows as you say they could be sitting in someones home having been passed down thru the generations they could have been destroyed although I really hope not or they could be anywhere in the world. A good question.

Happy Easter Everyone I am really enjoying my Lindt easter eggs and the bunny one I already ate and the big block of cadbury dream (white) chocolate I have to eat tonight.

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, sounds like you're having a GREAT Easter! LOL!

Jane said...

Hi Caren,
I love the title of this post. It would be fascinating if it's in a little box in someone's basement or attic. Or maybe someone will be it to a taping of Antiques Roadshow and ask the experts to check its authenticity.

Happy Easter. I'm looking forward to shopping on Monday for the discounted Easter candy.

Gillian Layne said...

Those pictures are amazing! And how fun is it to imagine where those eggs are right now. Maybe buried, maybe in a bank vault, or maybe sitting on a sweet little old lady's dresser, because her grandson was a solider who pocketed it and then didn't know what to do with something so priceless...

Happy Easter, all!

Deb said...

Lime, did the GR bring along any chocolate eggs today?

Caren, what a neat and egg-citing post. The pics are gorgeous. Can you imagine having a piece like that?! One of my students did a biography "talk" on Anastasia a few weeks ago and your post made me wonder if Anastasia really did escape. Could she have taken an egg, if so? Would she realize the monetary value or would it hold many treasured memories of her former life?

Happy Easter! May all your (plastic) eggs be filled with chocolate!

Caren Crane said...

Lime, congrats on getting the GR today...I think. Though he is a rooster, he tends to enjoy Easter chocolates - even those in the shape of chickens. He is also fond of Peeps, which kind of gives me the willies. Maybe it's like eating gingerbread men, though?

Check back when you've had some sleep and the chocolate wears off! :-)

Caren Crane said...

Mitzi, I love the buried treasure theory. It makes me want to get a metal detector and scour the Russian countryside. *g*

I keep thinking either they were melted down and sold off as scrap precious metals and jewels OR they are a well-guarded family secret that no one dares to reveal.

I wonder what would happen if one turned up? Would the Russian government try to claim it or are those thefts past all statutes of limitation at this point?

Caren Crane said...

Anna C., it was interesting doing research on the Imperial eggs. Apparently, during the reign of Nicholas II some of the Imperial eggs were displayed at a World's Fair. The judges were so blown away by the artistry that Faberge became well-known and much sought-after. The rich from all over the globe commissioned works from his shop, and so the House of Faberge was born.

There are some pieces that have been deemed almost on par with the Imperial eggs that are in collections around the world. I would love to see that hippo. I'm sure it was exquisite!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, it's hard to believe the monarchy was so out of touch with the masses that they continued to live opulently while people were starving. Especially since the Russian ties to France had been strong for a long time and, well, we all know what happened when the French aristocracy bankrupted the kingdom!

Still, I admire the incredible artistry of the Imperial eggs and it boggles my mind how much creativity, talent and effort went into crafting these miniature masterpieces.

Enjoy your chocolates! The Lindt bunnies are such a treat. My favorite thing is to go to the Lindt store and buy the deeply-discounted bunnies that were broken in shipment. I mean, I was going to break it up and eat it anyway, right? *g*

Happy Easter!

Caren Crane said...

Jane, I keep thinking about the documents and artifacts still being discovered from the Nazi regime. They just uncovered a large cache in the past few weeks that was sitting in the attic of a house. I suppose with older homes, lots of things are left behind when the owners die and the house is sold. Apparently this stash of stuff was deep in the attics of a home and the new owners discovered them.

No telling how many things have been pitched in the trash because no one wanted to sift through the old stuff. My younger sister would have slapped a tag on it and sold it - completely unexplored - at a yard sale!

Caren Crane said...

Gillian, I love to think that someone may have one of these eggs sitting in a china cabinet or, like you said, on a dresser gathering dust.

If I saw a Faberge egg in my grandmother's house, I would assume it was like all her costume jewelry from the 1940s - pretty but worthless. As noted above, my younger sister (or my mother, for that matter) would slap a sticker on it and sell it in a heartbeat!

Actually, my mother might dust it off and stick in the glass cabinet of her secretaire - where my younger sister would find it and dispose of it as stated after her death. It boggles the mind. Somewhere in Russia, someone's impatient and ruthlessly unsentimental grandchild is probably selling an Imperial egg at a yard sale. Wonder if I could go to Russia and just visit yard sales? *g*

Caren Crane said...

Deb, my daughters and I were discussing the animated "Anastasia" when I was composing this post. If anyone saw it, remember that Anastasia had a music box her grandmother had given her? It opened with a key she wore (maybe in a locket?) and opened into a music box.

Check out this link and the detailed description of this similar-sounding, incredibly intricate Orange Tree Imperial egg. It reminded me of Anastasia's music box, for sure, and I realized it was a nod to the connection between Faberge and the Imperial family. It may have been in very poor taste to commission such works, but it does make the imagination soar!

Caren Crane said...

By the way, the link I posted to the story about the Orange Tree egg also has a picture of the first Imperial egg commissioned, which was the Hen egg. It is just a white enamel egg, but when opened, it has a golden yolk. The yolk opens and reveals a golden hen. The hen opened to reveal a diamond miniature of the Imperial crown and a ruby egg.

Sadly, the crown and egg were lost, but the Hen egg was part of the Forbes collection Anna C. posted about.

It is also interesting to note the people who were the American collectors of the Imperial eggs sold during the Depression: Lillian Thomas Pratt (wife of General Motors executive John Lee Pratt); Matilda Geddings Gray; India Early Minshall; Marjorie Merriweather Post (founder of General Foods, Inc.); and, Malcolm S. Forbes (publisher of Forbes magazine). These people were all among the Who's Who of the rich and super-rich in America in the early 20th century.

The links above will show you the Imperial eggs each of them possessed. Forbes had quite a few!

Louisa Cornell said...

Nope! You must have some really good chocolate eggs at your house Lime! He is staying!

Gorgeous post, Caren. I have always been fascinated by the story of those eggs and the tragic end that family met.

It is entirely possible that one or more of those eggs could be anywhere in the world, a treasured piece picked up by a soldier or maybe just an every day citizen picking through the rubble of the sacked palace. It could have been passed down from father to son or mother to daughter for generations, its origins lost forever until it is only known as a family heirloom of no importance to anyone outside the family. Stranger things have happened. The story of those eight eggs would make a great basis for a romance series!

limecello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
limecello said...

And - Happy Easter, everyone!!!

Heh - the GR did *not* bring any chocolates. *pout* I feel like I should boot him.
I loved this post, Caren. Lots of potential for great stories here too.
Heh. I don't have any peeps, thank goodness, so I won't have to be creeped out by the GR eating them ;)

Kim in Hawaii said...

Caren, thank you for a timely post (and thank your daughter for the creative title). I believe they are "As symbols of a decadent and lavish lifestyle that led to the downfall of Imperial Russia." If found, they should be given to the Russian government to display in the Kremlin or Hermitage.

Back in 1995, I toured Russia with other military families. We flew on Aeroflot from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg. The highlight was the trip was our tour of the Hermitage and summer places. Although these historical sites were run down after WWII and communist rule, it was evident that the monarchs starved the poor to lavish themselves. We then traveled by overnight train to Moscow and toured the Kremlin. Again, it was evident of the monarchy's indulgence (as well as the communists’ corruption). Lenin's body remains on display in Red Square - he is not as big as I imagined he would be.

The post communist government has allowed some of its historical treasures to be displayed at major museums outside Russia. I believe the eggs, if found, would be shared with the world.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

HAPPY EASTER to everyone who celebrates the holiday!

GREAT post, Posh! And I agree with Louisa -- WONDERFUL fodder for a romance series, or a Fantastic suspense/thriller with LOTS O BOOM! ;-)

Lime, maybe you better frisk the GR if he had no chocolate with him. There are a dozen different choccie Easter goodies missing from he pantry and Sven is quite vexed.


Minna said...

You know, some of the people who made those Faberge eggs were actually Finns.

Donna MacMeans said...

Oh Caren -

This sounds like a plot for a romance novel to me - hunting down the last of the Fabrege eggs.

I've heard similar stories about arwork hidden on the eve of the Nazi's arrival in France - that some of the hidden artwork remains hidden.

It's much more fun to think they're still out there then imagine they've been destroyed.

Happy Easter everyone!

Nancy said...

Caren, my entire chocolate bunny is gone, not just the ears! Happy Easter!

Now, that's a book idea--those missing eggs. If only Russia comes back "in" as a setting. I suspect they were stolen and broken up, the valuable bits sold piecemeal. It'd be nice to think they weren't, though, that they're still out there, tucked away in attics or buried by trees, or maybe even in a steamer trunk in a cellar somewhere.

Nancy said...

Caren, speaking of Russian music boxes, the plot of this season's White Collar, involved an amber one supposedly made for Catherine the Great.

Joan said...

(Munch, munch) Oh, sorry...(wipes chocolate off mouth) great post Caren!

I don't think ALL of them should be handed over to the Russian government and the ones they want? They should pay for.

Those eggs are extraordinary as are the Ukaranian ones done with wax etchings and dye. Just saw a demo of that on Food Networks Unwrapped.

As to my own eggs this year? Nothing quite so fancy. There's only so much you can do with SCRAMBLED eggs :-)

Off for more Easter, mulching :-)

Caren Crane said...

Louisa, I'm surprised no one has mined this story line yet. Probably hard to work in the Russian connection. If I had any talent for historicals...but no.

I hope you got chocolate bunnies this Easter!

Caren Crane said...

Lime, I'm not surprised he showed up empty-handed. Typical!

You should treat yourself to some deeply-discounted sale candy tomorrow. I plan to! :-)

Caren Crane said...

Kim, that is so cool you got to see St. Petersburg! I can't help but feel that the sacrifice of the Russian people should be repaid by the return of looted artifacts. The ones sold by the Bolsheviks are a different story, since supposedly the money benefited the country. Who knows?

I think Russia would proudly display any unearthed treasures from that time. I hope I get to follow in your footsteps one day and see St. Petersburg myself!

Caren Crane said...

AC, I can't believe the GR had the nerve to snitch the Easter goodies from your house. He obviously snarfed them all down, since he showed up at Lime's with empty claws. What a rapscallion!

Caren Crane said...

Minna, I know some artisans are credited with the actual work on the eggs, so I would not be surprised to find Finns among them!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I love steamer trunks in stories of all sorts. Also, I read some stories by...someone...about Russian amber. Good stuff!

Caren Crane said...

Joanie, enjoy all your Easter treats! I'm sorry I missed the Food Network fun today. I'm sure they tormented you. :-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

I love looking at the Fabrege eggs, Caren. The artwork and craftsmanship is just awe-inspiring. I'm also a nut on the Romanov's history, especially Nicholas and his family.

So 8 missing eggs, seven family members slaughtered in the countryside. Hmmm...that would make such a great story, wouldn't it?

What if the zcarina never traveled without her eggs. Perhaps kept them in a hidden compartment of her valise? Perhaps, the czar, seeing that his family was doomed, tried to save them by offering the eggs to their captors? But the man double crossed them, or perhaps was off hiding his treasure when the orders came down to do the killing and couldn't save them?

Perhaps he sold one to a wealthy collector, then went on to live the life of a displaced Russian nobleman?

Oh, yes, I could see this being a great story!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yummm! Nothing so good as chocolate bunny ears!


I'm with Mitzi, I think they were hijacked and hidden by someone who never came back for them. Or in those black-market vaults you mentioned...

Oh, the stories I could write!

limecello said...

AC - I think he did scarf them all down! There definitely were no treats at my house - and it seems like the Easter Bunny didn't stop by either! I'm thinking Caren is right and the GR ate it all.
No wonder he's been all sluggish. Sugar crash!

robhap said...

Anna Campbell Contest:
READING NEXT;Outback Bachelor