Fabergé's Eggs, By Toby Faber

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The Independent Culture

Almost every year from 1885 until the Russian Revolution, the jewellery firm of Fabergé was commissioned by the Tsar to make a surprise Easter egg for the Tsarina. When Nicholas II came to the throne, eggs continued to be made for his mother as well as the new Tsarina Alexandra, so that a collection of 50 of these bejewelled, kitsch but beautifully made objects accumulated.

Toby Faber describes the eggs in loving detail, at the same time detailing the lives, characters and actions of the Romanovs, which made their fall inevitable – no sadder, but more tragic in the literary sense, than the deaths of millions of Russians from famine and hardship in the same period. The eggs provide a symbol both of the Romanovs' humanity and their tastelessly lavish lifestyles. They lived in such extravagance that the Imperial Yacht contained stabling for a cow, so that passengers could enjoy fresh milk.

After the Revolution the collection was broken up. Faber follows the fate of each individual egg with the zeal of a detective. The whereabouts of nearly every egg is now known, and the next time one comes up for auction you can buy it if you've about £6m to spare.

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