The world’s largest private collection of fabled Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs will be sold by the Forbes publishing family this spring as part of a rare Faberge collection valued at up to $120 million.
“The sale of any one of these eggs would be an event. The sale of nine is unprecedented,” David Redden, vice chairman of Sotheby’s, said Thursday.
Sotheby’s said the eggs and 180 other Faberge pieces collected by the late Malcolm Forbes would be offered in New York on April 20 and 21 and could fetch $90 million to $120 million.
The eggs, a standard for rare treasures, were first commissioned by Russian Tsar Alexander III from the House of Faberge master crafters in 1885 as Easter gifts for his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. The tradition continued for 30 years in the Romanov imperial family.
The eggs, alone expected to draw between $65 million and $95 million, will be displayed at Sotheby’s from April 12.
50 in existence
There are 50 Imperial Easter Eggs in the world, including the nine owned by the Forbes family. There are 10 in the Moscow Kremlin Collection, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the United States has five and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth owns three. The others are in the United States, Switzerland and Monaco, but eight are unaccounted for.
Only seven have been auctioned in the last 65 years, according to Sotheby’s.
Forbes, publisher of Forbes Magazine, collected the Imperial eggs and other objects made by the House of Faberge. They have been displayed at Forbes Galleries and shows worldwide since his death 14 years ago.
According to Sotheby’s Faberge expert, Gerard Hill, Forbes’ ambition was to surpass the Kremlin’s collection. The Soviet Union began selling the eggs in the 1930s.
The family said in a statement that Forbes had left it to his children to decide whether or not to sell one of the collections, but he hoped that it would be auctioned.
“The family has now decided it is time to make this unique treasure trove available to other collectors so they may have the thrill of owning a rare and exquisite work of Faberge,” the statement said. “Also, the sale will allow each of us to pursue our own individual interests.”
Sotheby’s Redden said he expects the auction to generate interest from buyers around the world, especially Russia.
The last Faberge Imperial Egg to go on auction was sold for $9.57 million at Christie’s in April 2002.
The highlight of April’s auction will be the Coronation Egg, which is 5 inches high and was commissioned by Nicholas II after he was crowned in Moscow to present to his tsarina on Easter in 1897.
The egg is made of gold colored enamel and mounted with trelliswork of diamond-set imperial eagles. Inside a velvet-lined compartment is a replica of the royal coach.