With every egg, Faberge outdid himself in technique, detail or complex mechanics. Some of the world's best examples of handcrafted automata are hidden in the jeweled shells of the Imperial eggs. At the stroke of the hour, a ruby-eyed rooster emerges crowing and flapping its wings from the top of the elaborately designed Cockerel egg (1900). Faberge was known to have worked on the mechanism of the Peacock Clock in the Winter Palace, and his familiarity with that famous automaton no doubt inspired the creation of this egg.
"Faberge, who had traveled a lot, had absorbed all the currents, the various artistic currents, in Paris, in Florence, in Dresden, in London," says author Geza Von Habsburg. "He could go back to this memory bank and select objects from it. For instance, the Bay Tree egg in the Forbes Magazine Collection is based on an 18th century mechanical orange tree, a French automaton, which was a fairly well-known object which Faberge must have seen during his travels.
Other eggs that Faberge made were based on objects he saw in the imperial treasury and used as prototypes for his first eggs." The Bay Tree egg (1911) is laden with gemstone fruits set among carved jade leaves. Turning one of the fruits opens the top of the egg as the tiny bellows inside produce the sweet song of a feathered bird.
As if to bolster the Czar's self-image during his most trying times,
Faberge presented Nicholas with a series of eggs commemorating achievements
of the Romanovs. In lavish Rococo style, the Peter the Great egg (1903)
celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding St. Petersburg;
the Napoleonic egg (1912) honored the Motherland's victory over the
French general and his armies.
Two Eggs presented to the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna – the Winter
egg (1913) and the Grisaille egg (1914) – may best represent the height
of Faberge's career, expressions in miniature of the life of Imperial
privilege. Both were kept at Maria's favorite Anichkov Palace: one inspired
by the serene surroundings in winter; the other by the opulent embellishments
of the palace interior, where many of the ceilings are painted en grisaille.
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