Marie Antoinette’s Jewelry To Be Auctioned Today at Sotheby’s

Posted on November 14, 2018

“Marie Antoinette with a Rose” by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1783)

 

“Never in the course of history has the destiny of a queen been so closely associated with jewels than that of Marie Antoinette. Her great love of pearls and diamonds is well-known and a number of historians have cited Napoleon’s view, that the so-called “affair of the diamond necklace” – a scandal which tarnished the queen’s reputation in 1785 – was one of the causes of the French Revolution.

The impressive ensemble of jewels to be offered this autumn has an extraordinary story. In March 1791, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children began to prepare their escape from France. According to accounts written by Marie Antoinette’s lady in waiting, Madame Campan, the queen spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all of her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and placing them in a wooden chest. In the following days, the jewels were sent to Brussels, which was under the rule of the queen’s sister, Archduchess Marie-Christine and which was home to Count Mercy Argentau. The count, the former Austrian Ambassador to Paris, was one of the only men who had retained the queen’s trust. It was he who took delivery of the jewels and sent them on to Vienna, into the safe keeping of the Austrian Emperor, Marie Antoinette’s nephew.

In March 1791, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children began to prepare their escape from France. According to accounts written by Marie Antoinette’s lady in waiting, Madame Campan, the queen spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all of her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and placing them in a wooden chest. In the following days, the jewels were sent to Brussels, which was under the rule of the queen’s sister, Archduchess Marie-Christine and which was home to Count Mercy Argentau. The count, the former Austrian Ambassador to Paris, was one of the only men who had retained the queen’s trust. It was he who took delivery of the jewels and sent them on to Vienna, into the safe keeping of the Austrian Emperor, Marie Antoinette’s nephew.

In 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple tower. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were executed by guillotine in 1793 and their 10-year old son, Louis XVII, died in captivity. The king and queen’s only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse de France, “Madame Royale”, was released in December 1795, after three years of solitary confinement. After learning of the deaths of her mother and brother, she was sent to Austria. Upon her arrival in Vienna in 1796, she was given her mother’s jewels by her cousin, the emperor. Having borne no children of her own, Madame Royale bequeathed part of her jewelry collection to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, Duchess of Parma and grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France, who in turn left them to her son, Robert I, the last ruling Duke of Parma.”

Altogether, the collection includes 10 jewels which belonged to Marie Antoinette.

 

 


Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace
Composed of three rows of slightly graduated natural pearls measuring from approximately 7.30 to 9.30mm, the clasp set to the centre with a star motif highlighted with cushion-shaped, circular-cut and rose diamonds, length approximately 380mm, later clasp fitting with maker’s and Austrian assay marks for gold.

 

 


Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendent Earrings
Each surmount set with a button shaped natural pearl measuring approximately 12.65 x 12.95 x 15.60mm and 12.95 x 13.10 x 16.00mm respectively, the reverse set with rose diamonds, supporting a detachable pendant set with an oval natural pearl measuring approximately 10.25 x 10.50 x 8.55mm and 10.15 x 10.20 x 7.70mm respectively, capped with rose diamonds, and a pinched collet-set cushion-shaped diamond, early 19th century, hook and hinged back fittings.

 

 


Diamond Brooch
Of double ribbon bow design set with cushion-shaped and circular-cut diamonds, second half of the 18th century, supporting a detachable pendant set with a pear-shaped diamond of yellow tint.

 

 


Enamel and Seed Pearl Pocket Watch
The case applied with blue and white enamel and set with seed pearls, opening to reveal a circular dial with Arabic numerals, inside of the case engraved with the letters M A and three fleur-de-lys motifs.

 

 


Fine Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace
Composed of a slightly graduated row of natural pearls measuring from approximately 7.30mm to 9.40mm, to a detachable clasp millegrain-set with cushion-shaped diamonds, length approximately 380mm, one cultured pearl.

 
 


Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant
Set with an oval diamond supporting a diamond bow motif and a slightly baroque drop shaped natural pearl measuring approximately 15.90 x 18.35 x 25.85mm, hook and hinged back fitting, the pearl and diamond bow motif were suspended from Marie Antoinette’s three strand pearl necklace; the single stone oval diamond surmount formed the clasp of that same necklace.

 

 


Diamond and Woven Hair Ring
Enhanced with a rose diamond monogram MA for Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

 

 


Diamond Ring
Set with a miniature depicting Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1755-1793), within a frame of circular-cut diamonds.

 

 


Diamond Brooch
Of bow design, set with a central cushion-shaped diamond of yellow tint, and cushion-shaped and rose diamonds.

 

 


Natural Pearl Clasp and Cultured Pearl and Diamond Necklace
The detachable clasp set with natural pearls measuring from approximately 6.95 to 7.65mm, 18th century, to six detachable rows of cultured pearls measuring from approximately 6.40 to 6.00mm, each row framed by single-cut diamonds, shortest length approximately 370mm, the pair of earrings, each set with a brilliant-cut diamond and a cultured blister pearl, hook fittings, maker’s mark, and the undrilled baroque drop shaped cultured pearl weighing 35.02 carats, measuring approximately 21.10 x 17.05 x 15.10mm.

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Sotheby’s, metmuseum.org]

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