Red Cross with Triptych Egg by Fabergé

Red Cross with Triptych Egg by Fabergé


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The 1915 Red Cross Egg with Triptych is made of silver, gold, opalescent white and translucent red enamel, watercolor on gold and glass.

The white enamel on this gold-mounted egg is decor ated with a translucent red enamel cross on either side. The center of each cross is set with a painted miniature of respectively the Grand Duchess Olga and the Grand duchess Tatiana in their Red Cross uniforms. The front cross with the portrait of Tatiana serves as a clasp, securing the double opening doors. The front of the egg divides into two quarters when opened, reveals a triptych within.

The central scene is the Harrowing of Hell, the Orthodox representation of the Resurrection. Saint Olga, the founder of Christianity in Russia is represented on the left wing of the triptych. The martyr Saint Tatiana on the right. The interior miniatures are executed by Adrian Prachow, who specialized in icons. The remaining two panels of the doors are inscribed with the crown monogram of the tsarina, and the other one with the year "1915".

The two miniature portraits of the two Grand Duchesses are probably by the court painter Vasilii Zuiev, who painted the miniatures for the companion Red Cross Portraits Egg. This is one of the few Imperial Easter Eggs that opens vertically. The 1913 Winter Egg is another.

Background information

This appears to be the only time when the eggs for the two Tsarinas in the same year could be regarded as obvious companion pieces. There is a more subtle connection between the 1916 Eggs. Nicholas II had been awarded the Cross of the Order of St. George in october 1915. The orange and black ribbon of the Order is used on the outside of Maria Feodorovna's 1916 Easter Egg, the Cross of St. George Egg, while the colors appear as part of the surprise in Alexandra Feodorovna's 1916 Steel Military Egg.

When India Early Minshall purchased this Egg in 1944, she had already written "The Story of My Russian Cabinet", noting, "Fabergé was called the Cellini of the North, but I do not think any jeweler can ever be compared to him."

In 1930 the Red Cross with Triptych Egg was sold by the Antikvariat in Moscow to an un described buyer. 1943 bought by India Early Minshall, widow of the founder of Pocahontas Oil Company , T. Ellis Minshall, at "A La Vieille Russie" in New York. 1965 Collection of the late India Early Minshall willed to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, United States.


History of The Last Tsar’s Fabergé Eggs

Called Imperial Fabergé Eggs, they were created specifically for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II to present as Easter gifts to their wives and mothers by the famous jewellers, the House of Fabergé in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The first Imperial Fabergé egg that began the annual family tradition was almost humble – for lack of a better word – compared to its later counterparts. Crafted in 1885 for Tsar Alexander III to gift to his wife Empress Maria Fyodorovna, the ‘Jewelled Hen Egg’ was 2.5 inches tall, with a white enamelled ‘shell’ and yellow-gold ‘yolk’ complete with a gold hen. The eggs went on to become more extravagant using materials such as gold, pearls and precious stones. It was not until the First World War that the eggs reverted to simpler designs to reflect the austere mood of the time – in part due to shortage of resources but also as the imperial family could not be seen to be commissioning such frivolous and expensive gifts at a time when all of Russia was drowning in war.

The two Fabergé eggs on display in our exhibition, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution , date from the First World War and both speak to this historical context in their own way.

Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg, 1915

Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg, 1915 © The Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg was made in 1915 to honour the contributions of Tsarina Alexandra and her two eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, in the war effort as Red Cross Sisters of Mercy. It is made of silver and gold, white and red enamel with watercolour on gold and glass and is almost 3.4 inches tall.

The front of the egg divides into two quarters, revealing an intricate triptych within. The central scene depicts the Harrowing of Hell, the Orthodox representation of the Resurrection, while the two outer scenes contain miniatures of the patron saints of the Tsarina’s daughters – St Olga, the founder of Christianity in Russia, and the martyr saint Tatiana.

The Tsarina and her two eldest daughters volunteered with the Red Cross during the First World and were trained in nursing at the Tsarskoe Selo Hospital by a pioneering woman surgeon, Princess Vera Gedroits. They broke royal tradition at the time with their hands-on approach to work at the hospital, attending to the wounded and even assisting with surgeries.

Steel Military Fabergé Easter Egg, 1916

Faberge Firm Imperial Steel Easter Egg, 1916, c.The Moscow Kremlin Museums

While the Red Cross Egg speaks to the Imperial women’s efforts on the home front, the Steel Military Easter Egg recognises the Tsar’s work at the General Military Headquarters and his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army. The egg stands at 4 inches with the miniature painting hidden inside.

The Steel Military Easter Egg was the last of the fifty Imperial Fabergé Easter eggs to be completed and was presented as a gift from Tsar Nicholas II to his wife Tsarina Alexandra in 1916. Just a year later, the Tsar would abdicate, and the family would become prisoners of the provisional government.

The egg was designed during the war by one of Carl Fabergé’s relatives, and was manufactured at the Putilovskii Steel Plant which was well-known for the quality of its steel. This Easter Egg is unusual for not being as lavishly embellished a some of its counterparts – during the turmoil of the war, limitations to resources meant that jewellers were no longer using silver and gold.

Made after Tsar Nicholas II had taken personal charge of the Russian army in 1915, the egg contains a miniature painting of the Tsar and his son Alexei reading maps at the war front – intended to represent the Tsar as a great military leader to be succeeded by his son Alexei in the future. It sits on four legs made to represent artillery shells, one of the newest weapons of the time. Almost foreboding of the fate of Russia and the imperial family, the steel of the ‘shell’ was originally black, but began to rust shortly after it had been delivered to the Tsarina. It now appears silver after being polished to prevent it from deteriorating.

This blog was written alongside our free exhibition The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution, exploring the life and death of Tsar Nicholas II and his family and the forensic investigation into their murder. Discover more about the science behind one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century in this series of blog posts.

Amrita Pal

This blog will take you behind the scenes at the Science Museum, exploring the incredible objects in our collection, upcoming exhibitions and the scientific achievements making headlines today.


ALVR Blog: Fabergé and the Red Cross, an Enduring Symbol

Our hearts go out to everyone during this difficult time, and we hope you are all staying safe and healthy. We look forward to welcoming you back into our gallery when this is all behind us. Until then, we intend to brighten your day with highlights from our collection on social media and the ALVR blog.

Recently, the US Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in New York Harbor. The sight of this massive white ship emblazoned with red crosses is a powerful symbol of hope in this trying time and reminds us of other periods of history when this emblem held particular significance. One Fabergé piece in our collection tells the story of such a time: a Red Cross brooch made at the time of the Great War.

This brooch features a red guilloché enamel cross against a white ground. It was likely awarded to an aristocratic lady in appreciation for her contributions to the war effort. That the brooch is encircled with diamonds suggests it was made for someone of particular importance.

At the onset of WWI, Russia was in great need of nurses. This need was so great, that the year-long training period was condensed to two months. In patriotic fervor, women from all classes answered the call to become sestry miloserdiya, sisters of mercy, as nurses were called in Russia. These volunteers included the wives and daughters of government officials, teachers and other professionals, and aristocratic ladies. At the helm were the Romanov women.

The Russian Red Cross was established in 1867 by Emperor Alexander II. Initially called the Society for Care of the Sick and Wounded, in 1879, it was renamed the Russian Society of the Red Cross. At the time of the Great War, it was led by Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who had been president of the Russian Red Cross since the beginning of her husband’s reign. When her son Nicholas ascended the throne, she refused to cede her presidency to Alexandra, but did eventually permit her to contribute in her own way. Alexandra and her two eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, volunteered to become nurses. In their new role, they became known as Sister Romanova, numbers 1, 2, and 3. While the two younger daughters were too young to train, Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia offered their support as hospital visitors.

In addition to caring for the wounded, Alexandra opened numerous supply depots that produced medical dressings and also collected and distributed non-perishable food, clothing, pharmaceutical supplies, and other items. Palaces and other buildings were converted for caring for the wounded. By the end of 1914, she was patron of 85 hospitals throughout Petrograd.

Alexandra and her daughters traded their royal finery for nurse’s uniforms in an effort to bridge the gap between themselves and their subjects. At this time, Fabergé’s artistic output also reflected austerity efforts, producing simpler pieces, and eventually, offering his workshops for making munitions. Though simple in design, this Fabergé Red Cross brooch makes a strong statement, recalling a time when people came together to overcome difficult circumstances.

In accordance with wartime austerity measures, the Red Cross eggs made for Dowager Empress Maria and Empress Alexandra are also simply designed. Maria’s egg, now in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, contains five portraits of Romanov women in Red Cross uniforms: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna, and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. Alexandra’s egg, now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, contains portraits of Alexandra, Olga, and Tatiana in their nurses uniforms. The egg opens to reveal a triptych, with the central panel depicting the ‘Harrowing of Hell,’ flanked by Olga and Tatiana’s namesake saints.

The Red Cross has long been a reassuring image of protection and benevolence, a symbol of hope and care, today and yesterday. We thank all our healthcare heroes working on the frontlines of this pandemic.


The Imperial Eggs

The act of giving Eggs in spring was a pagan tradition adopted by early Christians. The old tradition was to give dyed chicken eggs and later it became chocolate eggs. The act of Egg giving is popular in Eastern Europe and this tradition indicated the birth of something new. As the Russian monarchy were Russian orthodox Christians, the Tsar wanted to surprise his wife with a jewelled Egg as a symbol of his love and affection.

First Imperial &aposHen Egg&apos - 1885


Red cross with Imperial portraits egg Faberge 1915

Egg the Red cross with portraits - is created in Faberge's jeweler workshop, as a gift of Emperor Nikolay II to mother Maria Fiodorovna for Easter of 1915. In 1947 it is presented to a museum of the fine arts of Virginia, Richmond, the USA.

Materials it is made of silver, gold, iridescent white and transparent red enamel. Miniatures are made of nacre and a water color on an ivory.

Origin Nikolay II Maria Fiodorovna's gift. In 1930 it is sold to Gallery Hammer, New York. In 1933 it is bought by Lilian Thomas Pratt. In 1947 the late Lillian Thomas Pratt's collection, is transferred in the Museum of the fine arts of Virginia, Richmond, the USA.

It is stored Museum of the fine arts of Virginia, Richmond, USA.

Iridescent white enamel covers a silver body of Egg the Red cross with portraits. Two red crosses have dates "1914" and "1915". At egg top - a crown and the monogram of the Empress of widow Maria Fiodorovna, in silver. In the basis - the socket with six petals, an egg surprise - a sharnirny, turned-off screen with five oval miniatures: Great Duchess Olga Aleksandrovna, sister of the Tsar, Great Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, his most oldest daughter, Alexander Fiodorovna's Queen, Great Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna, second daughter of the Tsar, and Great Duchess Maria Pavlovna, cousin of the Tsar.

Pay attention, on other eggs created for a family of the Emperor Faberge's jeweler house, the egg made at the beginning of the First World War the Red Cross with the Triptych, and egg which couldn't be presented to Nikolay II to the mother Maria Fiodorovna from for the revolution which have happened in Russia egg the Karelian birch.


Craftsmanship

The egg was created by Fabergé&aposs workmaster, Henrik Wigström (Finnish, 1860�) [4] is made of silver, gold, opalescent white and translucent red enamel, watercolor on gold and glass. The white enamel on this gold-mounted egg is decorated with a translucent red enamel cross on either side. The egg measures 8.6 by 6.35 centimetres (3.39 in ×ਂ.50 in). The center of each cross is set with a painted miniature of respectively Grand Duchess Olga and Grand Duchess Tatiana in their Red Cross uniforms. The front cross with the portrait of Tatiana serves as a clasp, securing the double opening doors. The front of the egg divides into two quarters when opened, reveals a triptych within. [3]

The central scene is the Harrowing of Hell, the Orthodox representation of the Resurrection. Saint Olga, the founder of Christianity in Russia is represented on the left wing of the triptych. The martyr Saint Tatiana on the right. The interior miniatures are executed by Adrian Prachow, who specialized in icons. The remaining two panels of the doors are inscribed with the crown monogram of the tsarina, and the other one with the year "1915". The two miniature portraits of the two Grand Duchesses are probably by the court painter Vasilii Zuiev, who painted the miniatures for the companion Red Cross with Imperial Portraits Egg. This is one of the few Tsar Imperial Easter Eggs that opens vertically. The 1913 Winter Egg is another. [3]


Surprise

The surprise is a hinged, folding screen of five oval miniature portraits of women from the House of Romanov, each wearing the uniform of the Red Cross. The miniatures were possibly painted by Vasily Ivanovich Zuiev (active with Faberge from 1903�). The portraits are of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, Nicholas II's sister, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, his eldest daughter, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, the Tsar's second daughter, and the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the Tsar's first cousin. Α]

Each portrait is painted on ivory and is situated in a mother-of-pearl and gold screen that folds so that it may fit inside the egg. The inside of the egg is velvet-lined to secure the enfolded frame. On the back of each portrait is a golden monogram of the sitter. Α]


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