Among the familiar symbols that mark the return of spring each year
are the hare and the hen's egg. Both signify birth and renewal, the one by
its sheer fecundity and profusion of offspring, the other by a tiny chick
that breaks through its shell with all the astonishment of a jonquil breaking
the soil. The hare is depicted frequently in paintings, especially of the
Renaissance era, but it is the egg that has itself become the work of art.
Dipped, dyed, decorated in the most elaborate manner, sometimes even encrusted
with jewels, the eggs are often given as gifts at springtide. Time has long
since drifted over the origins of the symbolism as well as over the origins
of the decorating and gifting customs. But the custom survives, adapted to
time, technology, culture, economics—even politics—and remains
a creative outlet for the artist, from the smallest child with a cup of dye
at the kitchen table to the imperial efforts of Carl Fabergé.
Southgate MT. Spring Flowers in Two Panels. JAMA. 1998;279(14):1052. doi:10.1001/jama.279.14.1052
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