Easter of 1885 marked a day of great significance for the Russian royal family because it marked the 20th anniversary of Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna's engagement. As this was a special occasion it needed to be marked in a special way. So, Tsar Alexander III placed an order for an egg from Fabergé as an Easter present to his wife.
At a glance, the gift seemed to simply be a decorative piece, though it had a hidden surprise. Inside, there was a golden yolk, and in the yolk, a plump golden hen. Inside the hen, a diamond-set crown, and a tiny ruby pendant.
As one would expect, his wife to be Maria Feodorovna loved the gift, so much so that Tsar decided to turn this into a yearly tradition, which was taken quite seriously by the royal family in the following years. The Tsar's successor, Nicholas II, followed the tradition presenting eggs to both his mother, Maria Feodorovna and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna each year.
Consequently, around 50 Easter eggs were made for the imperial family between 1885 and 1917, only 42 of which have survived. Each of the eggs is unique in its own way, having an original design and containing a different hidden surprise. One such egg is the Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg, which is also known as the Madonna Lily Egg.
This egg was presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife for Easter in 1899 and is among the largest of all Fabergé eggs ever produced. Michael Perkhin worked on this particular egg under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé himself. It is clear to see that he was inspired by the design of French Louis XVI-era clocks and what makes his creation unique is that he cleverly used the egg as a face of the clock.
He also made good use of the symbolic language of flowers, combining roses - symbols of romance, love, beauty, and perfection, and white lilies, symbolizing the Virgin Mary's purity and innocence with burning torches that ultimately emphasized the significance of family love.
In 1917, two eggs that were planned for gifts during Easter were never delivered because of the Russian Revolution and the royal family being overthrown. Nicholas, Alexander and their children were all killed.
Today, this extraordinary egg, along with nine more Fabergé eggs reside in the Kremlin Armory Museum in Moscow, one of the oldest museums in Russia. Many of the other imperial Easter Eggs can be seen at various museums throughout the country, some are also housed in museums in the United States.
In 2004, nine of these eggs were purchased by oil and gas tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, for around $100 million. And his collection can be seen at the Fabergé Museum located in the Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg.