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Egg-stravagance

PUBLISHED: 05:26 27 April 2015

Undated handout photo issued by Wartski of a Third Imperial Faberge Easter Egg made for Russian royalty that was bought by a scrap metal dealer at a US bric-a-brac market, the egg is ultra-rare and worth around £20 million. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 19, 2014. See PA story HISTORY Faberge. Photo credit should read: Wartski/PA Wire 

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Undated handout photo issued by Wartski of a Third Imperial Faberge Easter Egg made for Russian royalty that was bought by a scrap metal dealer at a US bric-a-brac market, the egg is ultra-rare and worth around £20 million. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 19, 2014. See PA story HISTORY Faberge. Photo credit should read: Wartski/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Archant

James Hawkins of the Gold Shop at Diss explains the origins of giving eggs at Easter.

Like most secular traditions, the origins of giving eggs at Easter lie with early pagan festivals. Many cults were founded in ancient Rome, notably the Cybele circa 220BC from the region around Vatican Hill. These pagan followers worshipped Phrygian the fertility goddess and her consort Attis, who represented the ever-regenerating vegetation, and were celebrated at the spring equinox. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The first council of Nicaea in 325AD established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, the Sol Invictus. This incorporated the existing Jewish festival of Pasch that accounted for the resurrection of Christ, three days after his crucifixion by the Romans’ at Calvary.

In western culture we symbolise Easter with rebirth and regeneration – this was incorporated in early Christianity in the form of the egg symbolising the empty tomb of Christ. Many eastern European cultures decorated eggs and gave them to an admirer or loved one. The decorated egg was then placed as a table centrepiece for the forthcoming feast.

The first Fabergé egg was crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé for Tsar Alexander III, who had decided to give it to his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, in 1885. The Tsar’s inspiration for the piece was an egg owned by the empress’ aunt, Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark, which had captivated Maria’s imagination in her childhood. Empress Maria was so delighted by the gift that Alexander appointed Fabergé “goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”.

After Alexander III’s death on November 1, 1894, his son Nicholas II presented a Fabergé egg to both his wife, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, and his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna each year. The Imperial eggs enjoyed great fame, and Fabergé was commissioned to make similar eggs for a few private clients, including the Duchess of Marlborough, the Rothschild family and the Yusupovs. Fabergé also made a series of seven eggs for the industrialist Alexander Kelch. After the Russian Revolution, the Imperial family’s palaces were ransacked and their treasures moved to the Kremlin Armoury on order of Vladimir Lenin.

Of the 65 known Fabergé eggs, 57 have survived to the present day. In November 2007, a Fabergé clock, named by Christie’s auction house the Rothschild egg, sold at auction for £8.9 million. But this Easter, we mere mortals will have to console ourselves with eggs made of chocolate . . .

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