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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Albert Holmström (1876-1925)

The Mosaic Egg and Surprise 1914

RCIN 9022

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Technically one of the most sophisticated and extraordinary of Fabergé’s series of fifty Easter Eggs made for the last two Tsars of Russia to present to their consorts on Easter Day, the Mosaic Egg retains its ‘surprise’.  The ‘surprise’ takes of the form of a medallion, surmounted by the Russian Imperial Crown, painted on ivory with the portraits of the five children of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra on one side and a basket of flowers and their names on the other. The medallion is mounted on a stand and is held within the egg by gold clips. 

The egg was the Tsar’s Easter gift to his wife in 1914 and the Tsarina’s monogram and the date 1914 are set beneath a moonstone at the apex of the egg.  The egg comprises a platinum mesh into which the tiny precious stones are perfectly cut, polished and calibrated to fill the spaces.  This extraordinary technical feat is all the more impressive because the platinum is not welded but cut.  The five oval panels around the centre of the egg feature a stylised floral motif, replicating the technique of petit point.  The designer, Alma Pihl, was inspired to produce the needlework motif when watching her mother-in-law working at her embroidery by the fire. 

The egg was confiscated in 1917 and sold by the Antikvariat (the state run sales organisation created to sell treasures to the West for hard currency) in 1933 for 5,000 roubles.  It was purchased by King George V from Cameo Corner in London on 22 May 1933 for £250 ‘half-cost’ (this indicates that it was a joint purchase with the Queen) probably for Queen Mary’s birthday on 26 May.

This is one of three Imperial Easter eggs purchased by King George V and Queen Mary in the early 1930s.