Lot 55 - The Rothschild Fabergé Egg. Estimate: £6 million to £9 million ($12 to $18 million) Sold: £8,980,500 /$18,499,830/€12,509,837. World record price for a Russian art object at auction (not including paintings). World record for a Fabergé work of art. World record price for any timepiece (clock or watch) at auction. © Christie's Images Limited.
LONDON - The Rothschild Fabergé Egg sold at Christie’s for £8,980,500 / $18,499,830 / €12,509,837, a world record price for a Russian object (not including paintings) at auction, for a work of art by Fabergé at auction, and for any timepiece (clock or watch) at auction. An exciting rediscovery and an addition to no more than 12 recognised examples known to have been made to Imperial standards for anyone other than the Russian Imperial Family, this exceptional work of craftsmanship had never before been seen in public and was exhibited by Christie’s in London, Moscow, Paris, Geneva and New York leading up to the sale. Today it was subject to a tense 10 minute bidding battle in a busy saleroom before selling to a private Russian client in the saleroom.
The Rothschild Fabergé Egg is the highlight of Russian Art Week, a series of auctions dedicated to Russian Pictures, Works of Art, Books, Manuscripts and Icons which is taking place at Christie’s in London from 26 to 30 November 2007.
Anthony Phillips, International Director of Silver and Russian Works of Art at Christie’s: “This is one of the most exciting moments of my 40 years at Christie’s. The Rothschild Fabergé Egg presents all the elements of a true masterpiece; the quality of the craftsmanship, combined with its exceptional condition, rarity, provenance, and the fact that it is the only example to have remained in the ownership of the family for whom it was commissioned, all combine to make this a truly magnificent work of art. It has been incredibly exciting to have been involved with the sale of what is surely one of the very best of Fabergé's greatest creations and it has been wonderful to be able to exhibit this extraordinary Fabergé Egg, and to see the enormous public interest in this truly great decorative work of art.”
Alexis de Tiesenhausen, International Head of Russian Art at Christie’s: “The Rothschild Fabergé Egg is an extraordinary work of art, and we are extremely pleased that it has realised a record price which reflects its absolute quality. In the last two months, we have exhibited the Egg in London, Moscow, Paris, Geneva and New York, and many thousands of people have flocked to Christie’s to see and appreciate its magnificence for themselves. During the past few days at Christie’s Russian Art Week in London, the Rothschild Egg has been admired by international collectors from Europe, Russia and the United States, and we are thrilled that it has presented superlative Russian craftsmanship to the collecting community, attracting even more international interest and admiration for the Russian art category as a whole.”
The Rothschild Fabergé Egg is the only example of Imperial standards to have remained in the same family ownership since its commission. It was a gift from Beatrice Ephrussi (1864-1934) (neé de Rothschild) to Germaine Halphen (1884-1975) on the occasion of the latter’s engagement to Beatrice’s younger brother, Baron Edouard de Rothschild (1868-1949). They married in 1905 and it has remained in the family ever since. Beatrice’s husband Maurice Ephrussi (1849-1916) was born in Odessa, Russia, and worked for the Rothschild family’s oil interests in Baku. He went on to become a banker, helping to establish the Ephrussi Bank in Paris. It is possible that Maurice ordered the egg whilst in St. Petersburg, or during one of Fabergé’s selling trips to Paris at the turn of the 20th century.
The Rothschild Fabergé Egg is a superlative masterpiece by a master-craftsman. Exceptionally large with brilliantly chased vari-coloured gold work and enamelled in Fabergé’s most exciting and lively colour – a lovely translucent pink – its face is a clock and it contains an automaton cockerel. Every hour, the diamond-set cockerel pops up from inside the egg, flaps his wings four times and then nods his head three times while opening and shutting his beak and crowing. Each performance lasts approximately 15 seconds, before the clock strikes the hour on a bell. The egg is hallmarked under the enamel by Fabergé’s leading workmaster, Michael Perchin, and is further signed and dated, K. Fabergé, 1902. This is one of only three known examples with both a clock and an automaton, the others being the Imperial Cockerel Egg of 1900 and the Chanticleer Egg of 1904.
In 1885 Tsar Alexander III commissioned an Easter gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna. The Tsar asked Peter Carl Fabergé, a craftsman whose work was admired by the Empress, to create an object of spectacular beauty. Fabergé concentrated all his efforts on a creation which would impress the Imperial family and on the morning of Easter day in 1885, he delivered a spectacular enamelled egg with a golden yoke, inside of which was a golden hen, inside of which was a miniature crown of diamonds and a ruby egg. The Tsar and Empress were so taken by the gift that he instructed Fabergé to make a unique egg for his wife every Easter day, insisting that each must contain a surprise befitting of an Empress. The Tsar died unexpectantly in 1894 and was succeeded by his son, Nicholas II, who continued the tradition, ensuring that both his wife and his mother received an annual gift of a Fabergé egg every Easter. The tradition lasted until 1917 when the Tsar abdicated among civil unrest and was taken hostage with his family, all of whom were executed on 17 July 1918. In total, 50 eggs were made and delivered to the Imperial Family but not all survive.
There are no more than 12 recognised examples which are known to have been created to Imperial standards for private clients, to which the Rothschild Fabergé Egg is an exciting addition. The most renowned are those commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Emmanuel Nobel, seven eggs made for the industrialist Alexander Kelkh and his wife, who took delivery of an egg every year from 1898 and 1904, and an example commissioned by Prince Felix Feliksovich Iusupov, who was married to the Czar’s niece and assassinated Rasputin.
Fabergé is synonymous with luxury and superlative craftsmanship and the Fabergé Egg remains the rarest, most impressive and most desirable of all his creations. The Rothschild Fabergé Egg is a wonderful and exciting addition to Fabergé’s finest masterpiece.