The glamorous array of precious Easter gifts includes the one crafted in 1916 for Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. It is a single egg, devoid of precious stones and made of steel, an unusual material for imperial gifts. The egg was made during the First World War and a number of specialists have voiced the opinion that its austere design was a result of the difficulty in obtaining precious stones and metals, which were used by the firm. The main problem for Fabergé was that many of his craftsmen had been called up for military service and were enlisted to work at munitions plants. For this reason, from time to time there were not enough craftsmen to fill even royal commissions. Probably, Fabergé intentionally made this egg markedly simple also because he was well acquainted with the character and the lifestyle of his royal patrons. The Tsar’s family was accustomed to a rather simple and undemanding life before the wartime, so they felt that any excess or luxury at such a hard time for Russia would simply be out of the question.

During the years of the war, Alexandra Fyodorovna not only made medical inspections around hospitals in Russia but also allowed her beloved sick son to go into active combat with his father, because his presence acted as an inspiration to the soldiers. At the end of 1915, Emperor Nicholas II together with the heir to the throne went with troops to the southern and the western fronts.  He inspected all of the divisions stationed at the fronts, followed both armies along the line of combat, visited the dug-outs and observation points of the batteries of heavy divisions, and tried some mobile kitchen food.  Various photographs of the Emperor and Tsesarevich, e.g. standing in front of troops in a field, during the lunch with the command unit of the army, were placed in many newspapers and journals of the time.

One of these snapshots probably served as the model used by Vasily Zuev, a miniaturist artist, who painted on bone a water-coloured picture that was placed on an easel in the form of the monogram of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. This is the surprise of the war egg. Attached to the upper part of the easel are the insignia of the order of St. George (4th class) which Nicholas II was awarded following his visits to the fronts. The egg mounted on four artillery shells differs from the other Easter gifts in its severe restraint and purity of form. The accent is on the smooth, perfectly polished and cold gleaming surface of the steel. The applied golden décor is official and somewhat stiff – the Empress’s monogram, the Moscow city coat of arms and the double-headed heraldic eagle with arrows and a laurel wreath, the symbols of war and glory in its claws. The egg is rested on the noble dark green jade pedestal.  Despite the minimum of pectoral devices, the egg is one of the items which conveys most fully the spirit and mood of those years of war, which were difficult for Russia and the imperial family.  The atmosphere of that time is brilliantly reflected in the water-colour miniature of Vasily Zuev in the muted brownish-grey tones. The dull day, the sky overcast with heavy rain clouds and the stark tree in the foreground provide a bleak setting for the central figures, the Tsar and the heir to the throne in rough grey trench coats, who are huddled over a map together with the army commanders. The artists and jewellers had obviously been assigned the task of depicting the humdrum routine of war and showing the Tsar and his son at the centre of military operations, familiarizing themselves with life at the front. After receiving the egg the Empress sent a telegram to her husband in The General Headquarters thanking him for the lovely Easter present. She pointed out that the miniature group was amazing and all the portraits were superb.