I recently had the opportunity to immerse myself in all things Easter and renewal. Specifically, Russian Imperial Easter, which means plenty of decorative eggs and some splendid Fabergé! Join me as we take a look at some Orthodox traditions and the beauty that is the Imperial Easter Egg. With grateful thanks to the Museum of Russian Icons.
Eggs As Christian Symbols
For Orthodox Christians, the egg symbolizes the Resurrection of Christ and the celebration of things made anew. The Greeks say, “Christos Anesti!” and the Russians say, “Khristos voskres!” (Christ is Risen). Eggs in the Orthodox tradition are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Cracking the eggs represents Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.
The Russian Imperial Family, especially Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, were extremely devout. Interestingly, Alexandra was initially hesitant to convert to Orthodoxy. She had been raised in the Lutheran German nobility and was the granddaughter of Britain’s Anglican Queen Victoria. But Alix, as she was called, soon embraced Orthodox Christianity whole-heartedly.
These simple but elegant eggs were produced through the Imperial Porcelain Factory for the Romanovs. The eggs shown here bear the monograms of various members of the family. Note the absolutely beautiful rich blue of Tsarina Alexandra’s egg:
The great thing about this exhibition was that not only did the display include works from Fabergé, but from the Imperial Porcelain Factory and Fabergé’s competitors in that era. When you think of the Imperial eggs and all of their intricacies, nothing can beat Fabergé, but the non-Fabergé pieces are also stunning. Below are photos of the mix of these creations.
Tiny but Splendid
Even the tiny eggs are a work of art! Some are displayed on a tree hanger, but miniature eggs can be seen as necklace pendants as well.
These are the eggs as they are worn on a necklace, the usual custom. They are beautifully detailed and marvelous creations.
There was a unique twist to wearing these delicate eggs, however. Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna (born Princess Marie of Greece and Denmark) wore her eggs on a chatelaine, a Western European lady’s accessory that typically hung on a belt to hold keys or a watch. This style must’ve caught the Grand Duchess’s eye and sparked the idea to wear the eggs in this way. It does not disappoint!
Like eggs, the Lily-of-the-Valley flower is connected to Christianity. These small, bell-shaped flowers are often seen in Imperial Faberge creations. Lily-of-the-Valley blooms in spring, trumpeting the arrival of the new and the end of the old. Spring is a time of renewal, as is Christ’s resurrection.
Quite often, Faberge pieces were more than just a stand-alone decorative egg. As we can see with the cigarette case, some items were functional, like these picture frames and clock. The egg motif does carry through in most items, but there are also charming statuettes and dining room table items. For even more historic beauty, see Geza von Habsburg’s books on Faberge and (one of my favorites) his Faberge In America that profiles collectors.
For more photos, see the carousel below!