Blue Serpent Clock Egg
|Blue Serpent Clock Egg Fabergé egg|
|Customer||Alexander III presented to Maria Feodorovna|
|Individual or institution||Prince Albert II|
|Year of acquisition||2005|
|Design and materials|
|Materials used||Gold, vitreous enamel, diamonds|
|Height||183 mm (7 1/4 in)|
|Surprise||This egg has no known surprise, most likely because the egg itself is a working clock.|
The Blue Serpent Clock Egg is a Tsar Imperial Fabergé egg, one of a series of fifty-two jeweled eggs made under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé for the Russian Imperial family. This is the first of the Imperial Fabergé eggs to feature a clock, and is a design that Fabergé copied for his Duchess of Marlborough Egg in 1902. It was crafted and delivered in 1887 to the then Tsar of Russia, Alexander III. It is currently owned by Prince Albert II, and is held in Monaco. This egg, along with the First Hen Egg, is the only known surviving Imperial egg from the 1880s.
The crafting of this imperial egg is credited to Mikhail Perkhin of Fabergé's shop. The egg stands on a base of gold that is painted in opalescent white enamel. The three panels of the base feature motifs of raised gold in four colors, representing the arts and sciences. A serpent, set with diamonds, coils around the stand connecting the base to the egg and up toward the center of the egg. The serpent's head and tongue point to the hour which is indicated in roman numerals on a white band which runs around the egg near the top. This band rotates within the egg to indicate the time, rather than the serpent rotating around the egg. This is the first of the Tsar Imperial Fabergé eggs to feature a working clock. The majority of the egg is enameled in translucent blue and has diamond-studded gold bands and designs ringing the top and bottom of the egg. On each side of the egg a sculpted gold handle arches up in a "C" shape, attached to the egg on the top near the apex and on the lower half of the egg, near the center. One interesting feature is that the egg identified as the Blue Serpent Clock Egg contains no sapphires, while descriptions from the Russian State Historical Archives, the 1917 inventory of confiscated imperial treasure and the 1922 transfer documents for the egg to be moved from the Anichkov Palace to the Sovnarkom all describe the egg as containing sapphires.
Since this egg is a working clock, it contains no surprise.
History of the egg
It is not known when or how the Tsar ordered the third Easter egg from Fabergé, but the Blue Serpent Clock Egg was presented to Maria Feodorovna by Tsar Alexander III on Easter day, April 5, 1887. It is possible that by this time, the egg gift was already an established tradition, allowing Fabergé and his craftsmen an entire year to craft the next egg. This would explain in part why this egg is so much more elaborate than the first Imperial Easter egg. The egg was housed in the Anichkov Palace until the 1917 revolution. Along with the other Fabergé eggs in the palace, the Serpent Clock Egg was transferred to the Armory Palace of the Kremlin in mid September 1917. In 1922 the egg was likely transferred to the Sovnarkom where it was held until it was sold abroad to Michel Norman of the Australian Pearl Company. Between 1922 and 1950 the egg was bought by Emanuel Snowman of Wartski, sold, and bought back by Wartski. The egg was sold again by Wartski around 1974 to an unknown party, was held in a private collection in Switzerland in 1989, and was owned by Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1992. When Rainier III died in 2005, Prince Albert II inherited the egg along with the throne. Fabergé created a very similar egg in 1902, the Duchess of Marlborough Egg for Consuelo Vanderbilt. This clock egg is larger than the Blue Serpent Clock Egg and is enameled in a pink, rather than blue, color.
Dispute over egg's date
Some scholars have questioned whether the egg currently held by Prince Albert II is in fact that 1887 Tsar Imperial egg. Lopato in a 1993 article in von Habsburg & Lopato states the price of the Blue Serpent Clock Egg should have been closer to 6000 rubles instead of the 2160 rubles that the Tsar paid for the 1887 egg. She also claims that this egg is too sophisticated and elaborate for the early date to which it is attributed. Another indication that the egg is erroneously identified as the 1887 gift is the fact that the documents available for the 1887 egg all list the egg as containing sapphires. Since those sapphires are not visible on Prince Albert's egg this fact leads some to believe the 1887 egg is missing. In 1995 however, Tatiana Muntian matched this egg with the imperial descriptions, and further research published in Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs in 1997 confirm the date of this egg as 1887. The location of the described sapphires is still a mystery.
The theory that the egg dates from 1887 is not universally accepted, with the author himself stating "not all Faberge scholars agree with my theory".
- Faber, Toby (2008). Fabergé's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire. New York, New York: Random House. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-4000-6550-9.
- Lowes, Will; McCanless, Christel Ludewig (2001). Fabergé Eggs A Retrospective Encyclopedia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0-8108-3946-6.
- Mieks Fabergé Eggs