Imperial Rock Crystal Easter Egg
Made by Fabergé Russia, 19th century Mikhail Perkhin, Russian Workmaster, 1860 - 1903 Johannes Zehngraf, Painter of miniatures Russian, 1857 - 1908 watercolor on ivory 10 x 4 (diameter) in. 25.40 x 10.16 (diameter) cm. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt.
A note on Christel McCanless' website http://www.fabergeresearch.com was the start for me--a mystery, a treasure hunting, which I could solve.
Not long ago, I had do some research about the engagement gift of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. So my thought was that the unknown miniature must be close to the time because all of the 12 miniatures, depicted in the gift of her husband the Emperor Nicholas II, are from places, dear to the Empress from her youth as the daughter of Louis IV Grand Duke of Hesse and Alice Princess of Great Britain.
The Empress received the exquisite Easter Egg of rock crystal, emerald, diamonds and enamel in 1896. On the enamelled stand for the egg, her "A" is in either red or blue enamel with her imperial crown in enamel above each A (as Ornament, clear to see in the picture on top).
The surprise is twelve miniature paintings, ten signed by Johannes Zehngraf, which are framed in chased gold guilloche. They revolve around a fluted gold shaft that passes vertically through the centre of the egg when the cabochon emerald at the top is depressed and turned. When this is done, a hook is lowered and engages the top of a miniature to revolve on the gold axis. The hook folds them back like the pages of a book, so two of the miniatures can be fully seen. Each miniature represents a place of significance in the Empress's life:
Fortress Veste Coburg, the engagement place The Veste Coburg was where the royal couple was engaged engagement place as well her first meeting in Darmstadt with Nicholas.
Darmstadt, Germany Princess Alix von Hesse-Darmstadt, the future tsarina of Russia, was born here.
Winter Palace St.Petersburg, Russia It was in this vast and inhospitable palace that Nicholas and Alexandra were married. The miniature reflects the dull red colour of the palace's facade as it looked at this time. Originally painted turquoise and white, the facade in the early twenty-first century was sea-green and white.
Jagdschloss Kranichstein, Darmstadt, Germany where Alix spent some summer holidays in her youth.
Schloss Wolfsgarten near Darmstadt This castle was used as a hunting lodge and was visited by Alix on occasion during the summers of her youth. It was here she received instruction before her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, a necessary requirement for a future tsarina of Russia.
Schloss Rosenau, Coburg, Germany In April 1894, Alix's brother, Ernest, the Grand Duke of Hesse, married Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg in the Palace Church of Coburg. The Tsesarevich Nicholas attended the wedding, and four days later Princess Alix accepted his proposal of marriage. The next day, they drove in a pony-cart to nearby Rosenau.
Windsor Castle, near London Alix was a frequent visitor to the ancient castle at Windsor, the primary residence of her grandmother, Queen Victoria. Alix and Nicholas visited Queen Victoria at Windsor in July 1894.
Alexander Palace Tsarskoe Selo, Russia This relatively modest palace became the couple's favorite winter residence.
Balmoral Castle, Scotland Alix and her family made annual trips in her childhood to Britain. They would visit Queen Victoria at Balmoral during the shooting season and for instructions after the death of her mother. Nicholas and Alexandra visited Balmoral in October 1896.
Anichkov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia In 1888 the Tsarevich came more often to the Serge Palace when the Princes of Hesse were there, visiting his young aunt's shy little sister. On her side, Princess Alix had quickly fallen in love with the Tsarevich. She hid it carefully, and at first, indeed, did not realise it herself. It was only on her return to Darmstadt she felt that she had left her heart in Russia. There were many balls, to which the Grand Duchess took her sister, who danced more than ever again in her life, several of the merriest being given by the Empress at Anichkov. Among these was the celebrated bal noir.
In order to retaliate against the Austrian Court which had held a great function during a Russian Court mourning, the Anichkov ball was not countermanded on the death of some Archduke, but the guests were bidden to come in mourning, and the ladies never looked better than in every kind of black gown sparkling with jewels.
After their marriage on November 14 (OS), 1894, the newlyweds lived in a suite of six small rooms, an extension of the new emperor's bachelor quarters in this palace, a residence of the Dowager Empress Marie.
Osborne House, Isle of Wight, England We know the Hessian princess visited her grandmother often in England. Nicholas visited Britain in the summer of 1894 and stayed with his fiancée and her grandmother at Osborne House in June of that year.
and a Church - wich was incorrectly describet as Palace Church, Coburg.
But back to the unsolved puzzle,
I remember after the betrothal at Coburg that they had probably visited Rudolstadt, to met the old Duchess. I wrote to Mr Shifman, but what a pity - this church had been constructed between 1904 and 1906 and could not be the correct one.
On 17 August 2016, I wrote again to:
Dear Mr Shifman,
There is another choice which I add. Here is the story and a picture:
The life and tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, a biography by Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden
"She was intensely happy. The engaged couple spent a few days at Coburg, and went for a day to Darmstadt to see the Grand Duke of Hesse and his bride, and to visit the mausoleum at the Rosenhohe.
Then the Tsarevich had to return to Russia, and Princess Alix, with Fräulein von Fabrice, left almost immediately for Windsor. Here Queen Victoria once more brought her influence to bear.
She encouraged her granddaughter to have many serious talks with the Bishop of Ripon, Dr. Boyd Carpenter. The Bishop showed her how many were the points in common between the Orthodox Church and the Church of England, and it was decided that, on her return from a cure at Harrogate, the Emperor of Russia's confessor, Father Yanishev, should come to Windsor to instruct the Princess in the tenets of the Orthodox Church.
At Harrogate, where she underwent a treatment** for sciatica, Princess Alix did not lose time, for she at once began to study Russian diligently, under the guidance of Mlle. Catherine Adolfovna Schneider,- reader to her sister, the Grand Duchess Serge. "It is amusing, but certainly not easy!" Princess Alix wrote to Miss Jackson about these Russian lessons.
The Princess lived very quietly at Harrogate under the name of Baroness Starckenburg, but her incognito was soon discovered, much to her chagrin, and she had great difficulty in escaping from the notice of the public, whose interest was sometimes very embarrassing. She did not go about much on account of her cure, but her small niece, Princess Louis of Battenberg's daughter, was with her. So full of interest was the Princess in everyone and everything about her that, when the landlady at her lodgings had twins, she insisted on standing sponsor in person, the children being appropriately named Nicholas and Alexandra.
Meanwhile the Tsarevich was waiting impatiently to see his fiancée again, and as soon as the Princess's cure was over he set off for England."
The cure at Harrogate in 1894 - it was the answer and the church* on a picture, was
identified by me as the Congregational Church, Harrogate, in North Yorkshire.
See below the framed miniature of the church and the new picture side-by-side, and the imperial egg with a part of the frame on the right side.
The church is significant for Harrogate as landmark of the town and not for its significance to the Empress, (it was the building on the left**). It was renamed in 1972 as West Park United Reformed Church.
Mr Shifman, answered immediatly ""Wow! This looks exactly like the same image on our Faberge egg! You found the answer! I am very impressed!""***. A small piece of a puzzle and great fun!
*West Park United Reformed Church
** at Cathcart House on West Park, the house left near the church
***Part of our correspondence, which is complete with an confirmation from Dr Miller.
Sources: VMFA Mr Shifman;www.harrogatewestparurc.or.uk/welcome; https://archive.org/details/lifetragedyofale00sofi;
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