Objects

Citation for all images on this page: Lillian Thomas Pratt Personal Papers (SC-07). VMFA Archives, Richmond, Virginia.

All images and descriptions on this page are the property of, and used with the permission of, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Imperial Tsarevich Easter Egg, 1912

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Fabergé firm. Russian, 1842–1917
Workmaster Henrik Wigström
1862–1923
Imperial Tsarevich Easter Egg, 1912
Egg: lazuli, gold, diamonds
Picture frame: silver, platinum, lapis lazuli, diamonds, watercolor on ivory, rock crystal
Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt, 47.20.34

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The Imperial Tsarevich Easter Egg was presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1912. The egg is cleverly constructed to appear as if it is carved from a single piece of lapis lazuli. It actually has six lapis lazuli sections. The joints are concealed under the elaborate gold decorations that include double-headed eagles, a symbol of imperial Russia. The top of the egg is set with a table diamond (a thin, flat diamond) that covers the Cyrillic monogram AF (for Alexandra Feodorovna) and the date 1912. The base features a large solitaire diamond.

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The interior of the egg contains the platform that rises to reveal the surprise inside the egg.

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The surprise is a diamond-set, double-headed eagle standing on a lapis lazuli pedestal.

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Untitled.png5Fabergé firm
Russian, 1842 – 1917
Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin
1860–1903
Imperial Rock Crystal Easter Egg, 1896
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, diamonds, emerald
Johannes Zehngraf
Danish, 1857–1908
Miniature paintings
Watercolor on ivory
Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
47.20.32

Tsar Nicholas II gave the Imperial Rock Crystal Easter Egg to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1896 for their second Easter as a married couple—just two months before their coronation. The base of this egg is decorated in champlevé enamels and set with rose-cut diamonds. Its upper register features the monogram of Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, Alexandra Feodorovna’s name and title before she married Nicholas in 1894. The new empress’s crowned monogram, in entwined enameled Cyrillic letters, appears on the lower base.

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Inside the rock crystal egg are six pairs of miniature watercolor paintings on ivory by Johannes Zehngraf. They can be rotated by turning the twenty-seven-carat Siberian emerald at the top of the egg. Fabergé planned special themes for the imperial eggs that had personal meaning for the recipient. For this egg, he chose the locations that would evoke happy memories for the young empress.

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Neues Palais, Darmstadt, Germany

Princess Alix was born on June 6, 1872, in the Neues Palais, or New Palace, in Darmstadt, the small capital city of the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine. The palace, built just six years earlier, was set in a large park beside a lake.

 

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Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace was the official residence of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna—and the location of their wedding ceremonies. Today, painted green with white trim, it serves as the main building of the State Hermitage Museum.

 

Untitled.png17Jagdschloss Kranichstein, Darmstadt, Germany
Young Alix spent summer holidays at Kranichstein, a castle on the outskirts of Darmstadt. Once a hunting retreat for Hessian dukes, it became one of her family’s summer residences after the Neues Palais was completed.

 

 

Untitled.png18Schloss Wolfsgarten, near Darmstadt, Germany
This hunting lodge, established between 1722 and 1724 by Landgrave Ernest Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt, is a former hunting seat of the ruling family of Hesse-Darmstadt. From 1879, Wolfsgarten was the favorite country retreat for Grand Duke Ludwig IV, father of Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (later Empress Alexandra of Russia).

 

Untitled.png19Veste Coburg, Coburg, Germany
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was the husband of Queen Victoria, grandmother of Princess Alix of Hesse (later Empress Alexandra of Russia).

 

Untitled.png20Cathcart House and Congregational Church, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
It was in Cathcart House, a boarding house on Prospect Place, West Park, Harrogate, that Princess Alix and her lady-in-waiting, Gretchen von Fabrice, came to stay under the name of Baroness Startenburg when she travelled in May 1894 to Harrogate to take the famous baths and to undergo a treatment for her sciatica.

 

21Schloss Rosenau, Coburg, Germany
On April 20, 1894, shortly after the wedding of her brother, Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig of Hesse, Alix accepted Nicholas’s proposal of marriage at the Schloss Rosenau. This palace also had special meaning for Alix’s grandmother, Queen Victoria, whose late husband, Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, was born there.

 

Untitled.png23Windsor Castle, near London, England
Windsor Castle, set amid rolling hills west of London, was the residence of Alexandra’s grandmother, Queen Victoria. There, in the summer of 1894, Nicholas presented his formal engagement gifts to Alix. Tsar Alexander and Maria Feodorovna sent her an extravagant necklace of pearls, designed by Fabergé at a cost of a quarter of a million rubles.

 

 24Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, Russia
The Alexander Palace in Tsarkoe Selo (“tsar’s village”), located fifteen miles south of St. Petersburg, became the preferred residence of Nicholas and Alexandra and their children. The west wing of this relatively small yellow and white palace offered them a quiet, safe haven from the complexities of life in St. Petersburg.

 

25Balmoral Castle, Scotland
Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s summer residence in the Scottish Highlands, was Alix’s favorite among her grandmother’s numerous homes. Nicholas and Alexandra visited Balmoral during their customary state visits after the coronation. Although the weather during one stay was rainy and cold, Alexandra wrote, “It has been such a very short stay and I leave dear, kind Grandmama with a heavy heart.”

 

Untitled.png26Anichkov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia
Anichkov Palace was the St. Petersburg residence of Tsar Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna. Nicholas brought his new bride back to this childhood home after their wedding. Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna greeted them there with bread and salt, the traditional Russian welcome.

 

Untitled.png27Osborne House, Isle of Wight, England
Young Alix was a frequent summer visitor to Osborne House, one of Queen Victoria’s royal residences. In 1894 Nicholas visited his new fiancée, Alix, and Queen Victoria at this palatial home overlooking the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.

The Imperial Rock Crystal Easter Egg was kept in Alexandra Feodorovna’s study in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg from 1896 to 1917. Lillian Thomas Pratt acquired it in New York from Hammer Galleries in 1945.

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Imperial Pelican Easter Egg, 1897

30Fabergé firm

Russian, 1842–1917
Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin
1860–1903
Imperial Pelican Easter Egg, 1897
Gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls, glass
JOHANNES ZEHNGRAF
Danish, 1857–1908
Miniature paintings
Watercolor on ivory
Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt, 47.20.35

The Imperial Pelican Easter Egg was presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, in 1898. The egg commemorates the 100th anniversary of the charities and educational institutions she directed, which were founded by an earlier Russian empress who also took the name Maria Feodorovna (Alexander I’s mother, who was born Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, 1759–1828).

31The pelican that gives the egg its name stands at the top in a nest holding three chicks. The bird was the official symbol of the dowager empress’s charities and institutions, as well as a recognized symbol of maternal care that recalls the sacrifice of Christ: the pelican tears her flesh so that her children may feed and live.
This red-gold egg unfolds into eight oval frames rimmed with pearls. Each frame contains a miniature on ivory by the imperial court painter Johannes Zehngraf of one of the many educational institutions and charities that Maria Feodorovna directed until 1917.

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The egg is engraved with two Biblical quotations in Old Slavonic: to the left of the pelican, “Visit this vine” (Ps 80:14, AV), which was the motto of the dowager empress’s institutes for the betterment of women; to the right, “Ye shall live also” (Jn 14:19, AV), which was associated with her charities and appeared on the uniform buttons of the employees of both her charities and educational institutions.
Fabergé carefully designed the egg so that Maria Feodorovna could read the inscriptions when it was both open and closed.
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The frames are held upright by a flat gold stand, engraved with symbols of science and the arts, hinged between the fourth and fifth frames. This is one of relatively few imperial eggs that still has its original stand.