Easter is the most important and festive of Christian holidays in the Orthodox Church as in others. In Russia, it is customary to mark this day with the exchange of painted eggs and three kisses. The eggs commemorate the suffering of Christ and are a symbol of his miraculous resurrection from the dead and his redemption of the sins of man. The egg is also seen as a symbol of the world reborn in Christ.
The Egg shaped form has always been a popular media in Russian Art. This tradition goes back to 800 a.d., when Russia adopted Christianity. The egg is the beginning of life, and for centuries, iconographers have carved eggs from wood to paint on them icons. This tradition is still alive today, although the art itself has become more and more divers.
The Easter eggs, which members of the royal family and the noble and wealthy gave to each other, differed greatly from the traditional painted eggs of the people.
They were made of the finest porcelain or of gold and silver, and decorated with enamel, precious stones and miniature paintings.
Particularly splendid were the Easter eggs commissioned by the Czar from Fabergé, the leading firm of Russian jewelers; at the turn of the 20th century.
They were renowned throughout the world.
The Imperial Easter Eggs
Alexander III started the tradition in 1885. Every year, he commissioned an egg from his court jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé, as a gift to his wife, the Empress Maria Fyodorovna. After Alexander's death, his son, Nicholas II continued the tradition, commissioning from the firm two eggs each year.
At Easter, Fabergé himself would present one egg to the Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, while his assistant would present the second to Alexandra Fyodorovna, Nicholas's wife. In all, 56 of these masterpieces were produced between 1885 and 1917, however, only 10 of these have remained in Russia. Masters from the Fabergé firm worked on each Easter egg for nearly a year. Designers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, jewelers, stone carvers, enamelers and sculptors all took part in its preparation, from the initial sketches to the finishing touches. The final word, however, was always had by Fabergé, "a great, incomparable genius," in the words of Maria Fyodorovna.
These astounding creations often included delicate mechanisms. They were equally remarkable for their unusual design, the extraordinary precision of their execution, their magnificent detail and the wonderful selection of the most precious materials. The subject and form of each imperial Easter egg were unique. Some celebrated intimate family themes, while others honored notable events in the life of the Russian state and the imperial family.
Karl Fabergé created his famous ceremonial eggs as symbols of life and resurrection for Imperial families in celebration of Orthodox Easter. These eggs belong to the most celebrated goldsmith works of modern times and contain surprises, which were not revealed to the Czar's family until Easter. Even when being asked by the Czar, Fabergé did not divulge the secret and answered stereotypically: "Your Majesty will be satisfied."
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