LONDON – A rare enamel-and-gold Faberge egg that had been in the Rothschild banking family for more than a century sold for record-setting $18.5 million at auction Wednesday.
The sale of the translucent pink egg topped with a diamond-studded cockerel was a record for a Faberge work of art, Christie's auction house said.
The price also broke the record for Russian artwork, excluding paintings, easily beating the $9.6 million paid for a Faberge egg in New York in 2002, Christie's said.
Russian Czar Alexander III commissioned the first of the elaborate eggs from craftsman Peter Carl Faberge as an Easter gift for his wife, Empress Maria Fedorovna.
The empress was so enamored of that 1885 piece — an enameled egg with a golden yoke, golden hen, miniature diamond crown and ruby egg inside — that the czar commissioned a new egg every Easter.
After the czar died in 1894, his son Nicholas continued the tradition until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Nicholas and his family were executed in 1918.
Faberge created more than 50 eggs for Russia's imperial family, though not all survive.
The Rothschild Faberge Egg is one of no more than 12 such pieces known to have made to imperial standards for private clients, Christie's said.
The Faberge egg sold Wednesday originally was acquired by Edouard Ephrussi, who represented the Rothschild family's oil interests in Baku, in modern-day Azerbaijan.
Ephrussi's sister, Beatrice, gave the piece as an engagement gift to Edouard de Rothschild and Germaine Halphen, who married in 1905. Christie's said it had remained in the family since.
The piece was sold to a private Russian bidder after 10 minutes of bidding, Christie's said.