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The winter egg

  1. Fabergé Eggs is a series of jewelry that was created between 1885 and 1917 for the Russian Imperial family and private buyers. The first egg was ordered from Carl Fabergé in 1885 by Alexander III as a gift to his wife Maria Feodorovna in connection with their twentieth wedding anniversary in November 1886. The Emperor did not insist on a certain design of the future jewelry masterpiece, Carl Fabergé and his artisans were free to choose creative solutions and material, but he had a requirement: the egg should contain a surprise. When the egg was presented, the Empress was so impressed and pleased that Alexander III had no choice but to order another one from Carl Fabergé for Orthodox Easter. Subsequently, Alexander III made an order every year. After the death of Alexander III in November 1894, this tradition was continued by his son Nicholas II, who ordered an Easter gift from Fabergé, not only to his mother, but also to his wife Alexandra Feodorovna. In the period from 1885 to 1917, approximately fifty-six eggs were produced for the Imperial family, of which only forty-seven are now well recorded in various private and institutional collections. Soon after the revolution, the contents of the Romanov palaces were confiscated by the Bolsheviks. Most of the Fabergé eggs, along with masses of Imperial gold, silver, jewels and icons were inventoried, packed in crates and taken to the Kremlin Armory. Later, Stalin began trading the Russian Imperial legacy for desperately needed Western currency to support his new regime and now only ten remain in the Kremlin
  2. The genius behind a pair of the most celebrated Imperial Easter eggs was Alma Theresia Pihl (1888-1976), one of two women who worked as designers at the House of Fabergé at the beginning of the 20th century. She came from a long line of celebrated artisans employed by Fabergé; her grandfather was head jeweler and her uncle a renowned goldsmith. She was the niece of the other female designer, Hilma Alina Holmström
  3. The Winter Egg, Fabergé Work master: Albert Holmstrom, Designer: Alma Pihl 1913 Rock crystal, gold, platinum, chrysolite, diamonds. St Petersburg, 1913 Given by Emperor Nicholas II to his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna for Easter 1913
  4. In 2001, the Imperial Winter Egg was sold for a record price ($9,600,000) at the Christie's auction in New York. This is the most original of the surviving Easter eggs holding a surprise made by the firm of Carl Fabergé. It is now in the private collection of the Emir of Qatar The egg is 102 mm (4.0 in) high
  5. The exterior of the egg resembles frost and ice crystals formed on clear glass. It is studded with 1,660 diamonds, and is made from quartz, platinum, and orthoclase Enclosing at the top a cabochon moonstone painted on the reverse with the date 1913
  6. The thinly carved transparent body of the egg finely engraved on the interior to simulate ice crystals, the outside further engraved and applied with rose-diamond set platinum motif
  7. The egg rests on a block of rock crystal carved to look like melting ice with "rivulets' of diamonds.
  8. The surprise is a platinum double-handled trellis work basket, set with rose- diamonds and full of wood anemones, suspended from a platinum hook, each flower realistically carved from a single piece of white quartz with gold wire stem and stamens, the center set with a demantoid garnet, some carved half open or in a bud, the leaves delicately carved in nephrite, emerging from a bed of gold moss, the base of the basket engraved in Roman letters "Fabergé 1913".
  9. The miniature surprise flower basket is studded with 1,378 diamonds and is made from platinum and gold, while the wood anemones are made of white quartz. The flowers lie in gold moss.
  10. Alma Theresia Pihl, the designer of the Winter Egg, broke away from the conventional elements to produce a magical work of original creative genius
  11. The following year, Alma designed the exquisite Mosaic Egg which given to the Tsarina Alexandra. Her mother- in-law's tapestry was the inspiration
  12. The Mosaic Egg was a technically challenging project for the master jewelers, led by Albert Holstrom, Alma's uncle. Precious metals such as yellow gold and platinum were used. The pavé set gemstones varied given the colors needed for the petit point look of the design. These included diamonds, rubies, emerald, topaz, half pearls, moonstone as well as enamel. Gold, platinum, enamel, rose and brilliant diamonds, rubies, emeralds, topaz, quartz, sapphires, garnets, moonstone 9.5 x 7.0 cm
  13. This beautiful Easter Egg consists of a system of yellow gold belts, to which is applied a platinum network partially pavé-set with diamonds and colored gems, including sapphires, rubies, emeralds, topaz quartz and green garnets in flower patterns. This technique gives the look of petit point tapestry work, partly completed. It is divided into five oval panels set with half-pearls within lines of opaque white enamel. Five brilliant diamonds are set at each intersection.
  14. Crafted mainly of platinum, each setting for the stones was painstaking cut out of a platinum sheet by hand to form a mesh. Then, stones were polished and calibrated to fit each individual spot in the egg
  15. The artisans cut each of the square holes by hand and each gemstone had to be calibré-cut in such a way that it would perfectly fit into its designated space of approximately 1mm x 1mm
  16. The top of the egg is capped with a cabochon moonstone as the finial, underneath is the monogram of the Tsarina.
  17. The surprise concealed inside and held in place by two gold clips, consists of a jeweled and enameled miniature frame painted with the profiles of the five Imperial children, surmounted by an Imperial crown set with rose diamonds. The reverse is enameled with a pale sepia basket of flowers around which the year 1914 and the names of the five children. The oval base with vase-shaped white enamel stem is set with rose-cut diamonds, emeralds, and two suspended pearls. The Egg is engraved with Fabergé's name in Cyrillic characters
  18. During the dark days following the bloody revolution, the egg would be confiscated by the provisional government. In order to raise fund, the egg would be sold by the Antikvariat in 1933 for 5,000 Roubles. The same year, the egg would find a new home on May 22. It was purchased by King George V from Cameo Corner for £250 (about £16,500 today,) or “half cost” as noted in the ledger. King George likely purchased the egg for Queen Mary’s birthday on May 26. The egg currently resides in the Royal Collection Trust
  19. The Nobel Ice Egg, sometimes also referred to as the Snowflake egg, is a jewelled enamelled Fabergé Easter egg made under the supervision of the Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé, for the Swedish-Russian oil baron and industrialist Emanuel Nobel between 1913 and 1914.
  20. Commissioned by Emanuel Nobel, the Nobel Ice Egg was created in platinum, silver and seed-pearls. It not only stems from the same inspiration as The 1913 Winter Egg, but also shares the same technique in the execution of the hinges within graduated borders Alma Theresia Pihl-Klee (1888 - 1976)
  21. The Nobel Ice Egg was designed by Alma Theresia Pihl
  22. Like the Winter Egg and the Mosaic Egg, the Nobel Ice Egg was designed by Alma Theresia Pihl. The tragic events of 1917 forced the artist to stop her work and put an end to her brilliant career. The firm of Fabergé and the company where his husband worked, closed their St. Petersburg offices. Most of the workers immediately moved to Finland, but Alma's husband wanted to stay in Russia to look after his property. Subsequently, this decision has repeatedly turned into trouble, i.e. up to serious threats to the life of Nikolai. In an effort to escape from the devastation, hoping to return at least some part of the former quiet life, in the summer of 1921, with the support of Maxim Gorky, Nikolai's regular client, the families of Klee and Holmström managed to get permission to leave Petrograd and move to their native Finland, which by that time has ceased to be a part of the Russian Empire.
  23. Twenty-four years she taught fine arts, but none of the wards knew about her past. Until the end of her life, she remained modest and quiet woman for the villagers. No one knew that she was one of the best goldsmiths of her time in her former life and worked for the world famous Carl Fabergé, and she managed to design about two thousand precious products in her short career. In 1948, together with her husband, Alma moved to Helsinki. The only person, to whom the former designer a few years before her death revealed the truth about herself, was her beloved niece Lydia. Alma Theresa Pihl left this world on July 11, 1976 at the age of 87.
  24. Today, jewelry masterpieces created according to the sketches of Alma Pihl are estimated at millions of euros and occasionally appear at the world's leading auctions. Sketches in Alma's albums dedicated to the Winter Series and now owned by the company of Wartski give an idea of how great was the power of her talent. Snowflake pendant 60,000 GPB
  25. Faberge snowflake design by Alma Pihl Palais Royal Hong Kong
  26. A rock crystal Red Cross ‘ice pendant,’ designed by Alma Pihl and made by workmaster Albert Holmström, fetched a mid-estimate CHF50,400
  27. A Fabergé platinum, gold and diamond brooch, workmaster Albert Holmström, designed by Alma Pihl Fabergé, a jewelled platinum and rock-crystal pendant, design Alma Pihl Sold 187,800 €
  28. A Fabergé snowflake pendant with red cross, designed by Alma Pihl A Fabergé platinum, rock crystal and diamond ice crystal pendant designed by Alma Pihl
  29. 1912: Melting Ice Pendant Design Alma Pihl, Workshop Albert Holmström Provenance the Nobel Family
  30. A Fabergé platinum, gold and diamond brooch, workmaster Albert Holmström, designed by Alma Pihl (55,000 €)
  31. Snowflake brooch Sold 40,700 €
  32. Mosaic Brooch, ca. 1913 Christie’s London, November 29, 2021 (Sold 412, 000 euros)
  33. Sound: Tarja - You Would Have Loved This; I Walk Alone Text & Pictures: Internet All copyrights belong to their respective owners Presentation: Sanda Foişoreanu 2023

Notas del editor

  1. Fabergé artisans cut each of the square holes by hand and each gemstone had to be calibré-cut in such a way that it would perfectly fit into its designated space of approximately 1mm x 1mm.
  2. Alma Theresia Pihl-Klee (15 November 1888 in Moscow – 15 July 1976 in Helsinki)
  3. Moscow-born Alma Pihl was one of the most exceptional designers employed by Fabergé. Unlike the firm’s other predominantly male workmasters who had extensive training and experience, this young woman was largely self-taught. It is unsurprising that, as the granddaughter of the renowned Fabergé master August Holmström and daughter of the master goldsmith Knut Oscar Pihl, Alma Pihl entered the world of jewellery design. However, her talent for design was truly unique. Upon the death of her father, Pihl’s family relocated to St Petersburg. Here, she attended Carl Fabergé’s alma mater, the Annenschule, where she received private lessons in pattern-drawing from the Swedish Eugen Jakobson (1877-1940), also an artist for Fabergé. At the age of twenty, Pihl entered her uncle Albert Holmström’s workshop, where designers were required to draw meticulously detailed, life-size designs. In January of 1911, Pihl’s career was propelled forward by a request from Dr Emanuel Nobel for forty jewellery pieces by Fabergé. Sitting at her desk by the window in the workshop, Pihl was captivated by the way in which the sunlight glittered through the frost on the window, as if it were a ‘garden of exquisite frozen flowers’ - this vision inspired six brooch designs (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, Fabergé: his masters and artisans, Unicorn, 2018, p. 153). Thoroughly impressed with Pihl’s abrupt departure from Fabergé’s typical Neoclassical and Rococo designs, the workshop ordered six or seven of each design to be made. Dr Emanuel Nobel was equally mesmerised by the beautiful rendering of the frost; he bought the rights to the concept and subsequently ordered numerous other pieces conforming to Pihl’s design idea. One of Pihl’s most significant commissions was the 1913 Winter-themed Imperial Easter Egg, for which Dr Emanuel Nobel temporarily waived his rights to the frost design concept. Pihl’s egg was influenced by the Spring reawakening of nature - poignantly coinciding with the Easter theme of resurrection and the changing landscape of Northern Europe as it emerges from the melting Winter snow. The following year Pihl was again selected to design the Imperial Easter Egg. This time, Pihl’s inspiration came from her mother-in-law’s decorative petit point embroidery work, a fitting idea given that the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, for whom this egg was intended as a gift, was also known to enjoy embroidering. By 1915, Pihl wanted to diversify her style. Ever the innovator, her work after this point employed elements of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernist design. Sadly, the start of the Russian Revolution interrupted Pihl’s career. Fabergé was forced to close, and Pihl undertook a new career teaching German in St Petersburg and later drawing and calligraphy in Finland. Though she rarely discussed her work as a jewellery designer in the latter half of her life, today she is celebrated as a unique treasure in the masterful world of Fabergé.
  4. 1912: Melting Ice Pendant. Drawing of No. 13 from the Jewelry Book of Albert Holmström (Photograph Wartski) Ice Pendant. Design Alma Pihl, Workshop Albert Holmström. Provenance the Nobel Family.