Name: First Hen Egg, First Imperial Egg, Hen Egg, Imperial Hen Egg
Giver: Alexander III
Receiver: Maria Fydorovna
Made of: Gold, rubies, diamonds, opaque white vitreous enamel
Work Master: Erik Kollin
Original Cost: 4151 rubles and 75 kopecks
Current Owner: Viktor Vekselberg
Height: 64mm or 2 ½ in.
Width: 35mm or 1 3/8 in.
Surprise: A multi-coloured hen with ruby eyes, with its tail feathers hinged to the egg, and when pulled up, there is room for two surprises, both of which have been lost. The first was a replica of the crown done in gold and diamonds, and the second was a tiny ruby pendant covered by the crown.
Story: This was the very first Easter Egg produced by Fabergé, and it was done for the ever beautiful Marie Fydorovna, then Tsarina. Interestingly enough, it was the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, aka the Tsar’s brother, who ordered an Easter surprise for the Tsarina to celebrate the end of Lent. But the Grand Duke became more of a go between after Alexander was privy to the surprise.
The egg’s design was no doubt a tribute to another egg from the Tsarina’s childhood in Denmark. The egg is made of ivory, has a ring instead of a pendant, and to this day, still resides in the Royal Danish Collection.
The egg itself delighted the couple, and prompted them to order an egg every year, until Alexander’s death, which their son Nicholas carried on.
The egg itself was always in the Anichkov Palace before the 1917 revolution. This egg was seized and taken to the Kremlin, where is remained until about 1920, when it was sold to a Frederick (sometimes seen as Derek) Berry. It found it’s way into the auction house of Christie’s, and was sold to a Mr. R. Suenson-Taylor in 1934. Suenson-Taylor was made Lord Grantchester in 1953, and the egg was made property of the estate until both the Lord and Lady died in 1976. A La Vieille Russie acquired the egg in the same year, and sold it to the Forbes Magazine Collection in 1978. Viktor Vekselberg bought the Fabergé masterpiece with eight other masterpieces before they were auctioned. The egg was returned to Moscow, and is now displayed there.
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