Stunning Artifacts Thought to Have Belonged to Napoleon's Wife Will Soon Hit The Market


Sotheby’s announced Thursday that it would be offering two very interesting pieces of history in the form of two tiaras believed to have been owned by Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoléon Bonaparte’s wife and the empress of France.

While the couple were known for splashing the cash and focusing on extravagant entertainment, Joséphine had an extensive wardrobe and library of accessories — spending over 25 million francs ($4.4 million) on those categories in six years alone, according to Sotheby’s.

There is no absolute proof of the link between the pieces and the empress, but there are striking similarities between the pieces and the style of jewelry Joséphine prized, and the pieces date from 1808.

Each of the two tiaras is part of its own separate set of matching jewelry, called parures.

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The collections are both still in their original Parisian leather boxes.

One of the gold tiaras, made by Jacques-Amboise Oliveras, has five cameos featuring Zeus, Dionysus, Medusa, Pan and Gaia. It also comes with a matching belt clasp and belt ornament.

The other gold piece, a diadem, features 25 intaglios (the reverse of a cameo, where the design is carved out of the flat background of the stone) and is part of a set that includes a pair of earrings, a hair comb and a belt ornament.

The carved stones in the sets were believed to “endow the wearer with their various depicted qualities such as heroism, faithfulness and love,” according to Sotheby’s.

Both collections apparently have been kept as part of a private collection in the United Kingdom for around 150 years. They resemble another parure of Joséphine’s that has remained in the family after she passed it down to her son Eugène Rose de Beauharnais.

The sets will be available to view at the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva from Nov. 2 to 9. They will be up for auction on Dec. 7 and together are expected to bring in anywhere from $413,00 to $689,000 total.

“These majestic jewels mounted with cameos and intaglios certainly evoke the style of the grand Empress Joséphine — her rank as wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, her impeccable taste and her interest in the classical world,” Kristian Sofforth, head of Sotheby’s Jewels Department, said.

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“Empress Joséphine was much more than just a collector of antiquities,” Sofforth said. “By being the first to incorporate these cameos and intaglios into her dress, wearing them side by side with pearls and diamonds, she created an entire new fashion that swept Paris and the world, based on neo-classical forms.

“The jewels offered here demonstrate the finest delicate work by the finest French workshops, and, today, there are hardly any comparable pieces in the world.

“When fashions changed, jewellery was broken up and re-modelled, making their survival a truly exceptional one.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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