Jewelry

A Princely Family with an Astonishing Collection

By Sotheby's

T his emerald and diamond necklace, which is offered in the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on 15 November, comes from the collection of the Italian princely family Odescalchi.

By family tradition, this jewel was part of the corbeille de marriage – a gift basket given by the groom to the bride – when Vittoria Balbi Senarega married Prince Innocenzo Odescalchi on 2 February 1913.

The jewels, which it is believed the Prince purchased in Paris through an intermediary of an Indian maharaja, would become part of the new Princess Odescalchi’s astonishing collection of emerald jewels.

PROPERTY OF A PRINCELY FAMILY, EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE. ESTIMATE CHF 580,000–780,000. FROM MAGNIFICENT JEWELS AND NOBLE JEWELS.

In a picture taken at the Royal Palace in Rome by the court photographer Petri of Rome in 1938, the Princess is portrayed wearing some of her astonishing jewels. On this particular occasion she paired the emerald and diamond necklace with an important tiara and several brooches and devants de corsage which cover the bodice of her dress.

After the Princess passed away in 1965, her jewellery collection was divided, and the devant de corsage was separated into brooches, the tiara was remodelled, but the necklace, the pair of earrings and the bracelets remained intact.

In addition to their jewellery collection, the Odescalchi family were also great patrons of the arts with treasures such as Caravaggio's magnificent painting The Conversion of Saint Paul and van Dyck's Sitting Lady, as well as other masterpieces originally from the historic Balbi collection.

PRINCESS VITTORIA ODESCALCHI WEARING THE EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE. PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1938 BY THE COURT PHOTOGRAPHER PETRI OF ROME.

In 1676, Benedetto Odescalchi became Pope under the name Innocent XI. After his death in 1689, his sister Lucretia inherited the family fortune. In 1714, her grandson, Baldassare Erba-Odescalchi, was given the titles of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, Serene Highness, and Duke of Syrmia in the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1745, he acquired the palace in Piazza Santi Apostoli in Rome. The palazzo, with its façade designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was then enlarged by the architects Nicola Salvi and Luigi Vanvitelli.

The palace in Piazza Santi Apostoli, Rome, that now bears the Odescalchi name, was acquired by Baldassare in 1745. The beautiful building, with a façade designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was then enlarged by the architects Nicola Salvi and Luigi Vanvitelli. This is still one of the family's residences today, as is Santa Marinella Castle, on the seaside near Rome, and Bracciano Castle, acquired by the Odescalchis in 1696.

THE ODESCALCHI FAMILY CREST

The family tradition of supporting the arts continues to this day. In 1952, Prince Livio Odescalchi opened the Bracciano Castle as a museum. The imposing building is one of the most important examples of military Renaissance architecture in Italy.

The jewel offered in this auction is a testimony to the great taste and support of the arts of this princely family.

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