The Rothschild Faberge Egg: The Value of Provenance

In light of yesterday’s Provenance post I thought I would share a recent auction result that perfectly exemplifies the effect of provenance upon the value of an object. Christie’s London sold the Rothschild Faberge egg today for $16.5 million (BP 8,000,000) within the pre-sale estimate provided by the auction house. The pink Imperial egg with clock and automaton of a cockerel (a small enamel rooster that rises from the top of the egg) on a base was one of fifty produced by Karl Faberge’s workshops in St. Petersburg but only three (including the present egg) had the automaton and clock mechanisms. This egg, dated 1902, was composed of diamond, pearl, enamel and gold.

Not only did this Faberge egg come from a prominent collecting family but its provenance was also well documented. A codicil to a will of Baroness Germaine de Rothschild describes the original gift of the object as an engagement gift from her fiance’s sister, Beatrice Ephrussi (nee de Rothschild). The egg then passed by descent to the present owner, today’s seller. Christie’s catalogue entry recounts extensively the relationship of the Rothschild family members with Faberge objects.

This is a wonderful example of important provenance.