Treasures of the World
© Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
◦ Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty
◦ Nicholas and Romanov Russia
◦ Nicholas and Alexandra
◦ The tragic events that followed the coronation of Nicholas II
◦ Bloody Sunday
◦ Signs of revolution
◦ The inventive young Faberge
◦ Faberge's growing fame
◦ The Faberge Imperial Easter eggs featured in the Series
◦ The House of Faberge
◦ The workshops and workmasters
◦ Faberge the man
◦ Outrageous opulence
◦ Fragile remembrances
◦ The fate of the eggs ◦
By 1901, Nicholas and Alexandra had been
blessed with four daughters, and in 1904 an anxiously awaited boy and
heir to the throne was born. As the family grew, paintings of the children
became a recurring theme, and the best loved surprises were souvenirs
of family memories. "Faberge knew that miniatures were always going
to be a crowd pleaser," says Faberge collector Christopher Forbes.
"The family was very sentimental and very close, and they loved
pictures of each other. And what better place to put them than in a
little trefoil frame hidden inside an egg, or literally decorating the
whole shell of an egg. So portrait miniatures are probably Ц in terms
of the whole history of the eggs Ц the single most popular surprise."
The Lilies of the Valley egg (1898) is a
translucent pink-enameled treasure covered with gold-stemmed flowers
made of pearls, diamonds and rubies. One flower, when turned, releases
a geared mechanism inside to raise the fan of tiny miniatures from the
top Ц portraits of the Czar and his first two daughters, Olga and Tatiana.
Every spring, Alexandra had the rooms of the palaces filled with beautiful
floral bouquets. Faberge knew that pink was the favorite color of the
Empress, and lilies of the valley her favorite flower.
The jade Alexander Palace egg (1908) contains a perfect
replica of their favorite royal residence in the country Ц only two
and one half inches long. And sailing on the clear rock crystal sea
of the Standart egg (1909), is a replica of their royal yacht Ц reproduced
to the last detail Ц where many happy days were spent together. "I
think that was where Faberge differed so much from all the other jewelers
of the period," adds author Lynette Proler. "Where they were
only interested in large gemstones, Carl Faberge was interested in the
ultimate effect that a piece would have, a lasting effect so that every
time you looked at a particular object, you would have this great sense
of sheer enjoyment and pleasure from it."
Faberge knew both the joys and sorrows of the Romanovs. According to
Proler, "It wasn't very well known, of course Ц the Imperial family
kept it very quiet Ц that the Czarevich had hemophilia. He was dying;
he was very close to death, so close that the Imperial Court had already
written out his death notice. But Alexei survived, and Faberge designed
a special tribute. The Czarevich egg (1912)
was Alexandra's most cherished.
In 1900, the railway that would link European Russia with the Pacific
coast was near completion, an accomplishment that brought Nicholas great
satisfaction and the support of his country. Faberge devised an ingenious
offering to celebrate the event. Etched on a belt of silver encircling
the Trans-Siberian Railway egg (1900) is a
map of the railway line, the stations marked in precious stones. And
inside is a little train just one foot long.
"It's made out of gold and platinum, and its headlights are diamonds,
and its rear lights are rubies, and the coaches are individually labeled
for gentlemen, for smoking, for ladies. There was a restaurant car,
and at the end there was the traveling church, which was appended to
the Imperial train. It winds up, and I've tried it myself," says
author Geza von Habsburg. "The mechanism is a bit rusty, and it
moves slowly, but it's like a sort of old 'dinky toy.'"
But most Russians had no time for toys. The zeal to expand the empire
led to a disasterous war with Japan and further demoralized the country.
Hopeless wars, famine, disease and despair were unraveling the fabric
of faith the Czar's people once had in the divine right and benevolence
of the monarchy. Choosing to believe in the unfailing devotion of his
people, Nicholas became a prisoner of his self-delusion.