Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent wearing the diamond bow brooch.
NEW YORK - I spent yesterday morning filming a video for Sothebys.com with noted jewelry historian Stefano Papi telling the story of this magnificent diamond bow brooch from the collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman. It and 62 other rare and wonderful jewels from her collection will be sold at Sotheby’s on December 5, 2012. I love bow brooches. The bow is such a feminine decorative motif and it is a testimony to the jeweler’s artistry that he was able to mimic in precious metals and hard diamonds the softness of velvet, satin and lace bows used by 19th-century dressmakers. But beyond the inherent beauty of this jewel, there is the story…
When my jewelry colleagues and I were first invited to see the jewels Mrs. Wrightsman was considering selling, this was the first piece we saw. From her notes we learned that it was formerly in the collection of Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. That Mrs. Wrightsman would have such an important piece of 19th-century jewelry was not surprising as she is one of the great collectors of our time. Princess Marina married Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1934. He was the youngest son of King George V and Queen Mary – a British royal provenance. How exciting! But further research revealed that Princess Marina was the youngest daughter of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia who married Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark in 1902. And Marina had inherited the bow from her mother. There was the Russian connection.
Stefano Papi’s Jewels of the Romanovs, Family and Court.
This led me to contact Stefano, who authored Jewels of the Romanovs, Family and Court, in 2010. I wanted to know if he could shed any light on its history and he immediately answered that he had pictures of Marina’s mother wearing the brooch. Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duchess Vladimir, was Grand Duchess Elena’s mother and Princess Marina’s grandmother. The Vladimir palace rivaled that of Tsar Nicholas II and her jewelry collection was and still is world-renowned and the only one of note to be gotten out of Russia intact at the time of the Russian Revolution. One story is that the bow was a wedding gift to Princess Marina’s mother, Elena, from her own mother. Another comes from the memoirs of Cecil Beaton, who took a number of studio photographs of Marina as Duchess of Kent. He remembers that Princess Marina said that the bow was a wedding gift to her mother from her cousin, Tsar Nicholas II. Either way, we had now established that the bow is an historic Russian Imperial Jewel.
Princess Marina wore the bow often, including at the coronations of both King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1937, and also at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. She wore it at her waist in a glamorous Beaton photograph seen above. If this jewel could talk, what amazing things it could tell. It is truly magnificent.
Check back here for a video of Lisa Hubbard and jewelry historian Stefano Papi telling the story of this magnificent diamond bow brooch from the collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.