The Scrooge McDuck Midnight Egg
by Carl Barks & Theo Faberge
Midnight in the money bin. Uncle Scrooge leans back nd closes his eyes in rapture, dreaming of a frolic in the U.S. Treasury Building. It's after hours, so he has the run of the place. What will he find - ducats? doubloons? an ancient Sumerian crown? Is it possible the government vaults contain more wealth than his own teeming coffers? Billionaires think big, but sometimes the richest fantasies come in small packages. Scrooge's dream of gold and gems has been captured in the form of an egg, a jeweled artwork you can hold in the palm of your hand. Open the shell, slip inside the vault, and you can help McDuck count his treasures.
Only one man could have imagined this scene, and only one could have brought it to life using real gems. Carl Barks, who created the fabulously wealthy Scrooge McDuck and drew his comic books for twenty years, is no stranger to gems and treasures. Neither is Theo Faberge, grandson of Carl Faberge, the jeweler who produced ornate Easter gifts for the Russian tsars. Barks was ninety-one and Faberge was seventy and, for the first time, they combined their talents to create a modern artwork in a traditional form.
On the outside, the creation is wholly Theo Faberge's. He has imagined the façade of the Treasury Building as an egg, its dome shining austerely under the night sky, its wings wrapped around to form a shell. Surmounting the dome is the Imperial Russian Crown that can be seen on some of his grandfather's greatest creations.
It appears as well on nearly every egg in Theo Faberge's acclaimed St.Petersburg Collection. Inside, the fantasy is by Barks: Scrooge at play in the Treasury, but executed with real treasures by a master jeweler. The fame of Faberge dates from 1870, when Carl Faberge took over his father's business in St. Petersburg. Carl was a shrewd organizer, but it was his flair for creating what he called objects de fantaisie that put the family name on the map. Clocks, cuff links, even his umbrella handles were prized for their beauty and delicate use of enamels. Yet these rich trinkets pale beside the series of jeweled eggs he created for the Romanov tsars. Giving eggs at Easter dates back to the Middle Ages. The gift symbolizes new life at spring and new hope in the Resurrection. Jeweled eggs - often with candy inside - were a favorite with the aristocracy, and Tsar Alexander III wanted a very special present for his Danish tsarina. Carl Faberge created a white enameled egg with a golden yolk - and inside the yolk, a miniature hen of gold. So charmed was the tsar that he commissioned an egg a year after that; and when Nicholas II assumed the throne, he continued the tradition by presenting both his mother and his wife with an egg, each containing a surprise.
The fall of the Romanovs left Faberge's son Nicholas stranded in London, where he had traveled to set up an overseas branch. His own son, Theo, founded a fresh business and made it prosper. Today he is a member of Britain's Society of Ornamental Turners and a Freeman of the City of London. And he continues the tradition begun with the Imperial eggs by issuing new creations in limited editions. .
The McDuck Midnight Egg is the first in a series of five special commissions from the St. Petersburg Collection that will feature Uncle Scrooge. The shell is crystal, delicate yet durable. Its dome, enameled lapis blue to suggest the midnight sky, is punctuated by seven gold stars representing the decades of Theo Faberge's life. Below, the shell has been etched and hand-painted with 23-karat gold, the purest gold that can be fired onto crystal. Architectural forms evoke the stateliness of the Treasury Building and its egglike, contained quality. A flight of golden stairs leads to a landing flanked by ionic columns bearing up a triangular pediment. The entrance at the foot of the stairs is barred by a golden swag rope, for the Treasury is closed. But between the columns, we catch a glimpse of someone inside. The egg separates in the middle. Lift off the top, and there's Uncle Scrooge luxuriating in a tub of gold coins. His body is silver; indeed, the whole sculpture is sterling silver - 92.5 percent pure. To show this, the rim is stamped with the standard mark of a lion pass ant. It also bears the emblem of Theo Faberge (TF), the mark of the assay office (an anchor denoting Birmingham), and a letter symbolizing the year it was made.
You'll need a magnifying glass to see that, and to appreciate the detailing on the figure. Scrooge's coatis enameled in red; his collar, cuffs, and spats are gray. His crown is plated in 24-karat gold, as are his beak, cane, tub, and the coins around him; different colors of gold give each a different luster. His body, textured to resemble feathers, is lacquered to prevent tarnish, while the urn behind him has intentionally been oxidized to a rich green, then protected with lacquer. Surrounding him are two amethysts, two sapphires, and seven rubies - that's counting the stones that adorn the Imperial crown and the Sumerian one. No expense has been spared to make this egg a treasure-house in miniature. And in the tradition of the nicest Easter eggs, there's a second surprise, a treasure within the treasure. Push back the rim of the urn, and you'll find an extra cache of coins, ones the old miser has been saving for a rainy day.
The Scrooge McDuck Midnight Egg is made in London and limited worldwide to an edition of 250 individually numbered pieces. Each is etched on the bottom with Theo Faberge's signature and the edition number. Barks' signature, appropriately, is engraved on the base of the silver insert. In addition, the egg comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by both artists. Egg and certificate are housed in a custom carrying case, made especially for the St. Petersburg Collection. Gold fabric and brass fittings outside hint at the riches within, while the lining of white velvet provides an elegant setting for displaying your treasure. Recently the great Love Trophy Egg by Carl Faberge sold at auction for $3.19 million. For considerably less, you can own a piece of the Faberge tradition at a price that Uncle Scrooge himself would approve. His egg will be your nest egg, a treasure of beauty and subtle humor to cherish in the coming years.