Rarely Exhibited Items

Faberge Collection at VMFA

Imperial Easter Eggs

Fabergé’s greatest triumph was the series of fifty-two imperial Easter eggs made for the last Romanov tsars of Russia. In keeping with the traditional Russian custom of giving decorated eggs at Easter, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the first imperial Easter egg in 1885 as a gift for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. This white-enameled First Hen Egg opened to reveal a gold yoke. Nested inside were a hen, a diamond-set crown, and two ruby pendant eggs. The sequence of gifts so pleased the empress that her husband gave her a Fabergé egg containing a surprise every Easter after that for ten years. In 1894, following Alexander III’s unexpected death, the new tsar, Nicholas II, gave Fabergé eggs to both his widowed mother and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Nicholas continued his father’s annual tradition except for the years 1904 and 1905, which were disrupted by war and revolutionary uprisings. In all, forty eggs were delivered to Nicholas II. Two additional eggs were planned and partially created for Easter 1917, but Nicholas abdicated before they were finished. All of the remaining Romanov treasures, including many of the imperial Easter Eggs, were confiscated in 1917 by order of the Provisional Government. Eventually, some of these objects were sold to raise much-needed capital for the Soviet Union’s massive industrialization campaign that began in the late 1920s. Lillian Thomas Pratt acquired the five imperial eggs on view in this gallery between 1936 and 1945.