Parmigiani Fleurier And The Yusupov Fabergé Egg Of 1907
When they hear the name Fabergé, most people immediately think of imperial Easter eggs. This is logical because even today the breathtaking craftsmanship and detailed execution of these objets d’art are the stuff of legends.
The egg tradition hatched in 1885 when Tsar Alexander III commissioned his first Easter egg from Fabergé as a gift to his wife, Empress Maria Feodor. This became a yearly tradition, with Fabergé creating 50 eggs in total for the Russian court up to 1916.
The Russian imperial family took the Easter tradition of gifting eggs (a symbol of new life in the springtime) very seriously: they were exuberant showcases of traditional decorative techniques such as gem-setting, hand-turned guilloche, and high-fire enamel. At the heart of most of those eggs was a surprise: automata, miniature paintings, and jeweled replicas of places and objects significant to the imperial Romanov family.
Yusupov Egg history
The Yusupovs were an aristocratic Russian family whose most famous member was Prince Felix Yusupov II (thanks to his murder of Grigori Rasputin). The family became immensely wealthy, amassing art and jewelry collections of great renown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including of course a Fabergé egg.
The egg made in St. Petersburg by Fabergé under workmaster Henrik Wigström – Fabergé used the word “workmaster” instead of “creative director” or even “supplier” – was given to Felix’s mother, Zinaida, the seventh princess of Yusupov, by his father, Count Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston, on the occasion of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in 1907.
Princess Zinaida Yusupov, a lady-in-waiting to two Russian empresses, owned the most significant collection of historical jewels in pre-Revolution Russia after the imperial family.
When the princess fled Russia as the Revolution began, she left most of her financial assets in the country, including her collection of jewels and objets d’art, which were hidden in a secret vault in Moika Palace. Within five years the Bolsheviks had found the stash, though, and these items were sold off.
The egg was likely sold by Russian officials in Paris or Berlin, and by 1949 it was owned by dealers in London, who sold it to Maurice Yves Sandoz (1892-1958) in 1953.
It went from Maurice to the collection of Edouard Marcel Sandoz (1881-1971) and finally to the Sandoz Foundation in 1995, established in 1964 by Edouard Marcel as a family foundation to encourage entrepreneurial commitment, creativity, and private initiative. The Sandoz Foundation owns Parmigiani Fleurier and a number of direct suppliers (including the controlling portion of Vaucher) as of 1996.
Yusupov Egg craftsmanship
This table clock egg was created in Louis XVI style, an art era that included both the last gasps of rococo and the first phase of Neoclassicism.
The Louis XVI style is immediately seen in the three columns that form a stool to hold the egg with feet fashioned as lion’s paws. These paws are set upon a base inscribed with the Roman numerals XXV, which allude to the fact that this piece was commissioned to celebrate the Yusupovs’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
The egg is largely dominated by a revolving dial made of opaque white enamel set with applied brilliant-cut diamond-set Roman numerals to mark the hours and small emeralds to mark the half-hours. Unusually, the “4” is displayed by the regular Roman numeral IV instead of the more typical “IIII” used on watch dials for balance.
The tongue of a diamond-set serpent encircling the top part of the egg, the head of which is set with a large diamond, indicates the hours.
Three oval medallions, which originally held miniature portraits of the prince and his two sons, Felix and Nicholas, are suspended from laurel. The medallions now hold the monogram letters M, Y, and S for “Maurice Yves Sandoz.” These are encircled by rose-cut diamond borders wreathed in gold.
The magnificent egg is topped off by a gold chalice emitting a flame set with rubies and diamonds.
The egg shell itself is typical Fabergé flinqué: gilded silver that has been worked with handcrafted guilloche and then painted over with translucent Pompadour pink enamel.
The Yusupov Egg’s movement is signed “Hy Moser & Co”: Henry Moser, Le Locle.
Sandoz ownership of the Yusupov Egg
When Maurice Sandoz acquired what is generally now recognized as the star of the Sandoz family foundation collection – some of which is today housed in the Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle’s Room Maurice Yves Sandoz – he had the miniature portraits of Felix and his sons removed in New York, replaced by his monogram. The miniature portraits are said to still be in the hands of an American collector, though this is not confirmed.
Michel Parmigiani came in contact with the Sandoz Foundation when he was entrusted by the Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle to restore its collection early on in his career. Eventually, he met Pierre Landolt, chairman of the Sandoz Foundation, which marked the beginnings of the creation of the Parmigiani brand as of 1996, taking it from a first-class restoration workshop to a high-end brand.
Marked achievements in Sandoz Foundation collection restoration by the Parmigiani restoration workshop include the 1990 completion of the Pendule Symphathique by Breguet (now in the Patek Philippe museum) and two original Fabergé eggs: aside from the Yusupov restoration completed in 2007, Parmigiani also restored the Fabergé Peacock Egg in 2009. Both of these are in the Sandoz Foundation collection.
The Parmigiani restorer reported that the movement signed “Hy Moser & Co” (Henry Moser, Le Locle) was largely undamaged, the high-quality movement chiefly needing maintenance after having suffered natural wear and tear in its more than century-long existence.
However, the stopwork system had unfortunately been modified, which led to the need for more work there. There were also a few broken components, which were rebuilt in an identical manner thanks to measurements made by the restorer in addition to the use of 3D CAD computer programs. Some of these components included the winding pinion, winding ratchet, and a barrel arbor.
As an interesting side note, as the Parmigiani workshop was restoring this priceless piece it decided to re-create the time display system in a new work called The Cat and Mouse, which was dedicated to Edouard Marcel Sandoz, a figure and animal sculptor, featuring an Art Nouveau cat cut from a solid block of onyx ready to pounce on its diamond-encrusted prey.
You might also enjoy A Brief History Of Fabulous Fabergé Eggs.
Quick Facts Fabergé Yusupov Egg
Height: 27 cm
Weight: 1.3 kg
Materials: yellow gold, red gold, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, rubies, white onyx, translucent Pompadour pink, and opaque white enamel
Egg body: gilded silver with translucent Pompadour pink over guilloche (flinqué)
Dial: rotating dial in opaque white enamel with applied brilliant-cut diamond-set Roman numeral hour markers and small emeralds marking the half-hours; a snake tongue points to the time
Mechanism: two toothed spring barrels, Maltese cross stopwork, anchor escapement with steel escape wheel (15 teeth), bimetallic balance and Breguet balance spring, fine adjustment via index
Base: white onyx