the alexander palace egg

Princess Helen of Serbia - Elena Petrovna of Russia, married to Prince Ioann Konstantinovich

[Elena] involved herself in a hospital in the city [during the war]to complement her work at the front, and when the Tsar´s daughte Tatiana asked for her help with Serb refugees she was quick to respond, travelling all the waay to Odessa to review a detachment of Serbian soldiers. Elena was fond of the Tsar and his family and felt particularly close to Olga, the eldest daughter. She had seen signs of affection between Olga and her brother Alexander and hoped that in time something more serious would develop. Sadly for them all, the time was running out. …

[After the March revolution] at Pavlovsk life became harder as the weeks passed. Elena resisted the demands of a revolutionary comitee who wanted to dismiss Smirnov, Ioann´s steward, and fly the red flag over the palace, but their triumph could only be a matter of time. She was desperate for news of her husband … and one day the Prince arrived unannounced on the doorstep. The epaulettes had been torn from his tunic but he had escaped a general massacre of officers because his men said that he treated them fairly. Feeling dishonoured now in his own uniform, Ioann changed into the dress of a Serb cavalry captain that King Peter had given him on his wedding day. He would wear it for the rest of his life. When Easter came, he and Elena decided to take eggs to the imperial children at the Alexander Palace. They were turned away by the guards, though their gifts were taken in. Denied contact with the Tsar, and realizing that their own peaceful life at Pavlovsk would not be allowed to go on for long, Ioann and Elena reluctantly accepted advice to move to the city. From  the windows of the Marble Palace they watched the cruiser Aurora fire the opening shots of the Bolshevik revolution.

Charlotte Zeepvat: Romanov Autumn

The Alexander Palace Egg, 1908

This egg is carved from Siberian nephrite (1), and celebrates Czar Nicholas II’s five children. It is adorned with five miniature watercolour portraits of the children of emperor Nicholas II (the portrait shown on the picture is their daughter Anastasia) and contains a replica of Alexander Palace at Tzarskoye Selo. The upper and lower sections of the egg are set with triangular diamonds bearing the initial A.F. (Alexandra Fyodorovna) and golden leaves and flowers composed of rubies and diamonds.

The remainder of the egg’s surface is divided by five vertical lines, studded with diamonds and connected with one another by gold garlands inlaid with rose and ruby flowers. In the spaces between the vertical lines are the five miniature oval portraits of emperor Nicholas II’s children, framed in rose-cut diamonds, with a diamond monogram above each of them. Two gold branches tied into a bow rest beneath each child’s portrait. Inside the egg, on the reverse side of each portrait, is engraved the birth date (based on the Old Style calendar) of the person represented, framed by two branches tied into a bow: “Olga” - November 3, 1895; “Tatiana” - May 29, 1897; “Maria” - June 14, 1899; “Anastasia” - June 5, 1901; “Alexei” - July 30, 1904.

The stand for the egg was made in 1989 at the Moscow experimental jewellery factory by S. Bugrov from a sketch by T.D. Zharkova. The original stand had been lost. The present stand was made in 1989 at the Moscow experimental jewelry factory.

When opened, the egg reveals a tiny detailed replica of Alexander Palace, the Imperial family’s favourite residence at Tsarskoye Selo, and its adjoining gardens. Built in 1769 by the Italian architect, Giacomo Quarenghi in the late 18th century for Catherine the Great’s favorite grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, who would become Tsar Alexander I, the palace later became the principal residence of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. It is executed in tinted gold and enamel, with windows of rock crystal; the roof is enamelled in light green. The model is secured on a round pedestal with five high narrow legs, connected at the bottom. The inscription “The Palace at Tsarskoye Selo”, enclosed in a laurel wreath, is engraved on the base.

History:

The Invoice reads: “Nephrite egg with gold incrustations, 54 rubies and 1805 rose-cut diamonds, design with 2 diamonds and 5 miniatures of the Imperial children, containing a representation of the Alexander Palace in gold. St. Petersburg, 2 May 1908. 12,300 roubles.”

1908-1917 - Kept in the Mauve Room of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

1917 - Confiscated by Kerensky’s provisional government, along with other treasures, and taken from the Anichkov Palace to the Moscow Kremlin Armoury.

1922 - One of the items on the list of confiscated treasures transferred from the Anichkov Palace to the Sovnarkom: “1 nephrite egg with gold ornamentation, 2 diamonds and rose-cut diamonds, containing a model of the Tsarskoselskii [Alexander] Palace.”

The Alexander Palace egg was never sold by Antikvariat to the West and remained in Russia.