"a wonderful egg that never came from a chicken but out of a jeweller's shop"

The House of Faberge created intricate, jewelled eggs from 1885-1917, which were popular in Russia as gifts at Easter.  Some were tiny, designed to be worn on a chain around the neck, although larger versions were created for royalty and other wealthy families.  Even on these larger commissions the designer, Peter Carl Faberge, retained total creative control and the only guidance offered for their increasingly elaborate design was that each should contain a surprise.  Ten of the surviving large eggs are on display at the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow, whilst others remain in private collections and singly in museums around the world.

Trans-Siberian Railway Faberge egg (1900)
Creative Commons AttributionTrans-Siberian Railway Faberge egg (1900) - Credit: greenacre8

The eggs which Fevvers sees at the Grand Duke's house appear to be modelled on genuine Faberge creations in the Imperial collection.  The Kelch Hen egg made in 1898 was given by nobleman Alexander Kelch to his wife as an Easter gift.  It is a golden egg coated in rich pink, which does indeed open to reveal a matte gold yolk and a golden hen with diamond eyes.  Only the centre varies; where the Grand Duke's egg contains a second egg and a miniature of Fevvers, the original version contains a tiny easel holding a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II.

It may be that the Grand Duke's egg is betraying him; Walser is repeatedly compared to a chick, or an unhatched egg.  At the heart of his treasure the picture of Fevvers sits within a second tiny egg; a sign of the emerging attraction between the American and the aerialiste which could preclude any future with the Duke himself?

The Bay Tree egg was made in 1911 as a gift from Nicholas II to his mother.  When a lever disguised as a fruit is touched, a tiny, moving, feathered songbird flies out and begins to sing.  The tree itself, however, forms the shape of an egg and is not enclosed within an outer shell.

The third egg, the Trans-Siberian Railway, was made as a gift from Nicholas II to his wife in 1900.  Its outside is mainly of silver, with a gold stand and green lid, coloured with enamel.  Inside sits a tiny steam locomotive with five carriages made of gold and platinum, with a key to wind it up and make it run.  It remains on display in the Kremlin Museum today.

Only the final egg, the birdcage, does not appear in the list of Faberge eggs actually made.  There was a swan, made in 1906, but it swims freely upon a lake.