Continuing a practice initiated by his father, Alexander III, Czar Nicholas II (1868-1918) presented this egg to his mother, Maria Feodorovna, on Easter Day in 1901. Fabergé's revival of eighteenth-century techniques, including the application of multiple layers of translucent enamel over guilloche (1) or mechanically engraved gold, is demonstrated in the shell of the egg. The Faberge workmaster was Mikhail Perkhin and the cost was 5,000 rubles.
The Egg is divided into twelve panels by lines of pearls. Portrait diamonds are set at either end, but the monogram and the year of presentation, which were probably set beneath them, have been removed. The gold Egg is enameled opalescent white over a guilloche ground, under painted in a delicate design of green and gold leaves, pink roses and red ribbons tied into a variety of bows.
The Dowager Empress Alexandra Fedorovna lent it to a charity exhibition that was held in the Don Vervis mansion in 1902. It can be seen in photographs of this exhibition published in Niva. It was later kept in the Anichkov Palace. The egg was bought by Henry Walters from the emigree dealer Alexandre Polovtsoff in 1930. Polovtsoff had been the curator of the Stieglitz Museum of Industrial At before the Revolution and had remained in St Petersburg trying to protect the Pavlosk and Gatchina Palaces during the upheavals. How Polovtsoff had been able to get the egg to Paris remains unknown. It was first described in the Walters superintendent's log as " One egg in white enamel with a ring of little pearls, one missing, Modern."
When opened, the egg reveals a miniature replica of the Gatchina Palace, the Dowager Empress's principal residence outside St. Petersburg. So meticulously did Fabergé's work-master, Mikhail Perkhin, execute the palace that one can discern such details as cannons, a flag, a statue of Czar Paul I (1754-1801), and elements of the landscape, including parterres and trees.
The miniature palace is fixed inside the Egg and cannot be removed from it, unlike the 1908 Alexander Palace Egg, which Fabergé would create seven years later for Alexandra Fyodorovna.
The village Gatchina was a small sleeping village when Catherine II (Catherine the Great) decided to build a palace there for her lover, Grigori Orlov, who helped her to the thrown after a coup in which Catherine's husband (Peter III) was killed. Work started in 1766 and Catherine was constantly overseeing the works.
After Orlov died, Catherine bought the palace from his heirs and gave it to her son Paul Petrovich. Paul hated the idea that Gatchina was build for the murderer of his father, but nevertheless he become fond of the Palace. The Gatchina Palace was abandoned by Paul's son, Alexander I but was used again by Nicholas I, who build two new quarters. The Tsars Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II used the palace from time to time but did not change much on the exterior.
(1) Guilloche = a decorative design in which two or more curved lines or bands are interwoven, forming a series of spaces between them.