On my dream trip to Russia, one of my most memorable visits was to the Shuvalov Palace, situated on the banks of the Fontanka River, St. Petersburg to visit the world famous Fabergé Museum.
Many may not be aware the museum was in fact privately established and is owned and maintained by Viktor Vekselberg a Ukranian-born Russian businessman, the owner and president of Renova Group. His 'Link of Times Foundation' is dedicated to repatriating Russia's historically important treasures, much of which were sold off during the soviet era particularly during the 1920's - 30's. A stunning collection of over 4,000 works are housed within the palace walls where the worlds largest collection of work by Peter Carl Fabergé (also known as Karl Gustavovich Fabergé) can only be seen here.
The collection contains a virtual treasure trove of brilliance, paying homage to Fabergé including nine imperial Faberge eggs that once belonged to the Romanov family. The story began when Tsar Alexander III and his son, Nicholas II would each year gift their wives the prized and bejeweled eggs.
First Hen Egg - 1885
The first of the fifty jeweled eggs made for the imperial family was the Hen Egg, where the tradition began in 1885 after Tsar Alexander III commissioned local jeweler, The House of Fabergé to craft an Easter gift for his Danish wife - Empress Maria Feodorovna. The first egg proved such a hit that Carl Fabergé was given complete artistic freedom from then on, with the only requirement being that each egg must contain a surprise.
After the passing of Tsar Alexander in 1894 his son, Nicholas II continued the tradition by giving his wife Alexandra and his mother, an egg each year. The most impressive (and valuable) of these was the Coronation Egg. The egg was made to commemorate his 1896 coronation. The diamond and ruby encrusted shell is quite beautiful, however the true joy is the egg's interior which features an exact replica of the coronation coach of Catherine the Great.
Lillies Of The Valley Egg - 1898
It's understood it took a total of fifteen months including sixteen hour work days to finely craft the coronation coach alone. Meanwhile the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg of 1911 could be said to represent a mini family photo album, with royal portraits surrounded by diamonds and 18 hand painted scenes of Nicholas and Alexandra's reign. It would be only seven years later that the family would be executed.
In total fifty imperial eggs were produced, many of which are now scattered throughout the world, ten of which are to be found at Moscow's Kremlin Armoury. Of the imperial egg collection, the following are housed at the Fabergé;
- First Hen Egg
- Renaissance Egg
- Rosebud Egg
- Coronation Egg
- Lilies of the Valley Egg
- Cockerel Egg
- Fifteenth Anniversary Egg
- Bay Tree Egg
- Order of St. George Egg
A number of other eggs are housed at the museum including;
- Resurrection Egg
- Scandinavian Egg
- Spring Flowers Egg
- Kelch Hen Egg
- Kelch Chanticleer Egg
- Duchess of Marlborough Egg
The museum though is so much more than the eggs on display, imperial or otherwise as I wandered throughout endless rooms of the the museum I was in total awe as I rounded each and every corner of the large building.
Fifteenth Anniversary Egg - 1911
A vast array of treasures abounded before me things I had never known before, including enameled clocks, figurines and cigarette cases amongst others, which were produced by the House of Fabergé during its time as the premier imperial goldsmith in St Petersburg, at the time the imperial capital of Russia.
Not all of the items on display were exclusively made by Fabergé, other highly regarded Moscow silversmiths are represented too, with an entire room made available for visitors like me to gawk at the never-ending cases filled with these glittering domestic icons of Russia.
Imperial Coronation Egg - 1897
In another series of small rooms can be found a number of galleries where many huge Russian masterpieces are floodlit, including a Renoir amongst others.
Chanticleer Egg - 1904
The museum also displays the history of the restoration of the Shuvalov Palace itself, which at one time served as the 'House of Friendship and Peace', when the building hosted events and cultural festivals.
Collection Of Eggs - Faberge Museum
The Fabergé Museum Website offers a 3D Virtual Tour online for those who can only dream about taking a visit to one of Russia's national historic icons. My visit to the Fabergé Museum will stay with me for a lifetime and in my humble opinion, should be a must visit for those traveling to Russia.