As you can see this egg is very similar to the "Red Cross with Triptych Egg", that I wrote about last Friday. These two eggs are from the same year, and are toned down to reflect the somber mood of WWI. The "Red Cross with Imperial Portraits Egg" is made of silver, covered in white enamel. Two red enamel crosses - one with the year "1914" written around it, and the other with the year "1915" - decorate the surface. Inscribed between the crosses are the words: "Greater Love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends."
The surprise is a hinged folding screen with five oval miniature portraits of the women of the Romanov family, dressed as Sisters of Mercy. When WWI broke out Tsarina Alexandra had enrolled herself and her oldest daughters - Olga and Tatiana - in nurses' training, and had the palaces converted into provisional hospitals.
In Alexandra's letters to her husband, the Tsar - who was out in the war - you can read:
"This morning we were present (I help as always giving the instruments and Olga threaded the needles) at our first big amputation. Whole leg was cut off. I washed and cleaned and bandaged all up."
"During an operation a soldier died. Olga and Tatiana behaved well; none lost their heads and the girls were brave. They had never seen death. But he died in a minute. How near death always is."
The portraits represent, from left to right: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the Tsar's sister, Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaievna, his eldest daughter, Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaievna, the Tsar's second daughter, and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, the Tsar's first cousin.
Here is a photo of Alexandra, Olga and Tatiana in their nurses' uniforms.
The "Red Cross with Imperial Portraits Egg" can now be seen as part of the European Decorative Art Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in Richmond, Virginia.