The Stephanie de Beauharnais Service: An Important French silver dinner service, Jean-Baptiste Claude Odiot, Paris, 1821-24
An oval Soup Tureen, Cover, Stand, and Liner
height 17in. (43cm); length 17 1/2 in. (44.5cm)
weight 291oz 10dwt (9,069g)
A pair of Coupes d'Entremets, Stands, and Liners
length 13 3/4 in. (35cm)
weight 296oz (9212g)
A pair of Sauce Boats, Stands, and Liners
length 10 1/2 in. (26.5cm)
weight 149oz 10dwt (4653g)
A set of eight Double Salts
height 7 1/2 in. (19cm)
A set of forty-eight Dinner Plates
diameter 9 1/8 in. (23.3cm)
A pair of large Circular Dishes and Covers
diameter 17in. (43cm)
weight 313oz 10dwt (9753g)
A set of four Circular Dishes and Covers
diameter 14in. (35.5cm)
weight 408oz 10dwt (12,707g)
A set of four Oval Dishes and Covers
length 19 3/8 in. (49.3cm)
weight 510oz (15,861g)
Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden (1826-1907)
Then by descent in a branch of the family
Stephanie de Beauharnais (1789-1860) was the daughter of Claude de Beauharnais, Comte des Roches-Baritaud, and his first wife Claude Françoise de Lezay. Her father's first cousin was Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais, who in 1779 had married Marie Josèphe Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie, later Empress Josephine. Alexandre was guillotined in 1794, but two years later his widow married the rising young general Napleon Bonaparte. The general was stepfather to Josephine's children Eugène and Hortense, Stephanie de Beauharnais' second cousins. While Napoleon was still Consul, Josephine arranged for her "niece" to attend Madame Campan's finishing school, where Hortense and Caroline Bonaparte had both been pupils. After Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in December, 1804, Stephanie was invited to live in the Tuileries Palace. The charming and attractive teenager was a welcome addition to the Imperial circle, and was soon to rise higher.
After France defeated Austria at Ulm and Austerlitz, the Peace of Pressburg (December 26, 1805) marked the end of the Holy Roman Empire. At the same time, Napoleon was courting the foremost German princes to establish what would be the Confederation of the Rhine. Elector Maximilian of Bavaria (population 3.5 million) was proclaimed King, and his daughter married the Emperor's stepson (and Stephanie's cousin) Eugène de Beauharnias. The Duke of Wurttemburg (1.5 million) became a King and gained territory from Austria and Prussia. The Elector of Baden (1 million) became a Grand Duke, and his heir was betrothed to Stephanie de Beauharnais; on March 4, 1806, Napoleon announced that he would formally adopt her and designated her "Princesse Française."
The bridegroom, Karl Ludwig Friedrich, was the grandson of Karl Friedrich, the newly named Grand Duke of Baden; his father had died in 1801. His sister Caroline was married to Maximilian of Bavaria, his sister Luise to Alexander I of Russia, his sister Fredericke to Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, and his sister Wilhelmina to the Grand Duke of Hesse. The 17-year-old Napoleonic princess was thus moving into the foremost ranks of European rulers.
In Paris on April 8, 1806, "the marriage of Stephanie de Beauharnais took place with truly royal splendor. Cardinal Caprara, Papal Nuncio, pronounced the nuptial benediction and magnificent ceremonies took place" (The Memoirs of Queen Hortense). The Emperor presented the bride with a dowry of 1,500,000 francs and a trousseau of 500,000 francs; the briolette emerald necklace and earrings by Nitot & Fils which Napoleon and Josephine gave Stephanie are today at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The young couple removed to Baden, where the poet Johann Peter Hebel described the new bride:
yesterday, as we paid our respects to the new princess, she generally surprised and won over everyone. In a simple white garment, with several flowers woven into her hair... she stood there with more youthful and virgin grace than with royal dignity, without constraint, without embarrassment... she is of average height, tending towards small, has a healthy appearance, a meaningful eye and was found by most to be pretty... her temperament is said to be very lively and cheerful, a virtuoso on the piano..."
The couple were given the sprawling baroque palace of Mannheim as their winter residence and the garden palace of Schwetzingen for summer. However, the marriage was not a success. The young heir kept dissolute company and continued to lead a bachelor life at Karlsruhe, while the hostility of his family (mostly enemies of Napoleon) to his bride did not help matters. Napoleon himself remonstrated with the Grand Duke of Baden about the behavior of his heir. However, Karl Ludwig Friedrich died June 10, 1811, and the couple succeeded as rulers of Baden.
As rulers, the couple left Mannheim for Karlsruhe. Stephanie gave birth to five children between 1811 and 1818: two sons, neither of whom survived, and three daughters. The defeat and exile of her adoptive father in 1814 was followed by Josephine's death, then the 100 Days, Waterloo, and the exile to St. Helena. Stephanie's cousin Eugene sought refuge at his father-in-law's court in Munich, while her cousin Hortense was denied permission to settle in Baden by the Grand Duke. However, he in turn died in 1818; with both of the sons head had with Stephanie dead in infancy, his uncle Ludwig succeeded as Grand Duke.
Widowed with three young daughters, Stephanie returned to the palace at Mannheim. Helped by a jointure of 120,000 guilden, she made her residence a center for artists and writers, renovated parts of the baroque palace in a classical style, and maintained a small but distinguished court. As part of this, on visits to Paris in 1821 and 1823 she ordered an impressive table service from the Odiot workshop.
Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot had risen to prominence under the Empire, supplying extensive services in the new taste to Madame Mère (1806), Eugene's father-in-law Maximilian of Bavaria (1806-09), and Maréchal Ney (1809). However, after the fall of the Empire new, foreign patrons appeared and ordered silverware which continued the Empire taste under the Restoration, such as Count Demidoff in 1817 and Countess Branicki in 1819. Others from the Bonaparte orbit also placed orders with Odiot after Napoleon's fall: Elizabeth Patterson, the divorced first wife of Jerome, and Karl XIV Johan of Sweden, the former Maréchal Bernadotte.
Stephanie joined this list when, 9 November 1821, she ordered from Odiot a pair of oval soup tureens with "siren" handles. The model had been developed by 1806 and appears on a sheet of designs in the Odiot archives (reproduced Jean-Marie Pinçon and Olivier Gaube du Gers, Odiot l'Orfèvre, fig. 156, p. 101) showing variants with plain serpent handles and full figural ones. Stephanie chose the female figures, and these would be repeated on several of the other pieces for her, along with children. These may have been a deliberate choice by the still-young widow and mother, for most Odiot services show more variety, with handles of swans, seahorses, and eagles. The "sirens" appear again on the sauce boats Stephanie purchased a month later, 18 December 1821; like the other pieces, this model dated from the height of the Empire, was delivered to Madame Mère (ibid., fig. 190, p. 117), and appear in a workshop drawing with the arms of Empress Josephine. The finials to the tureens, formed as children tending plants, appear on drawings by Garneray (after Cavelier) for a jewel casket for the Empress Marie-Louise. They were used again on a similar casket given by Tsar Alexander I to Princess Gargarine, and on a pair of caskets formerly in the Love Collection (Antiquity Revistied: English and French Silver-Gilt from the Collection of Audrey Love, no. 39, pp. 124-127).
Two years later Stephanie returned to Odiot for a much more extensive order on 19 February 1823, including "coupes anses sirènes" ["cups", in fact shallow tureens, with siren handles], "Plats avec cloches" and "Plats ovales avec cloches" [platters with covers and oval platters with covers] and "b[ou]ts de table enfans" [the double salts with children]. The applied arms were listed separately, as was the engraving by Monsieur Desnoyer "pour les articles de Bade." The whole was contained in "4 coffres pour l'argenterie," delivered by M. Garnier. An Odiot cruet frame, probably originally part of the service and continuing the themes of women and children, was sold from the collections of the Margrave and Grand Duke of Baden, Sotheby's, Baden-Baden, 5-21 October 1995, lot 2138.
As with the tureens and sauce boats, the models had been developed at least ten years before, during the Empire. The "coupe d'entremets" appears on the same sheet as the tureen she had purchased before, suggesting that they were always intended to go together. Their finials, of children holding grapes, were another frequently-used Odiot model, appearing as a finial on a tea caddy of 1809-19 formerly in the Love collection (ibid., no. 36, pp. 118), and as supports to the wine coolers of 1817 in the Demidoff Service (Pinçon et Gaube du Gers, p. 135) and a sugar bowl of 1809-19 in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The round cloches were designed as early as 1806, the drawing from the Odiot workshop recording the two bands of decoration and the bud finial. This same model, with different friezes, had been used by Odiot a few years before for the cloches of the Branicki service of 1819 (examples in the Rijksmusuem, illustrated Pinçon and Gaube du Gers, p. 63).
Stephanie lived for over 40 years as a widow, dying at Nice, aged 71, in 1860. The court at Mannheim, in the center of Europe, was frequented by diplomats as well as the writers and artists. The Odiot service obviously came in for good use, as around 1830 missing pieces were replaced and flatware added by local silversmiths (see following lot). The guests at Stephanie's table noted her logical mind and kind heart, and admired the way she devoted herself to her daughters. Her eldest daughter Princess Luise married her first cousin Gustav, Prince of Vasa (the deposed Crown Prince of Sweden) in 1830. Her middle daughter Princess Josephine marred Karl Anton, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, in 1834. Lastly, her youngest daughter Princess Marie Amelie married William, 11th Duke of Hamilton, in 1843. Stephanie's descendants today include the former Kings of Romania and the former King of Yugoslavia, the present King of the Belgians, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and the Sovereign Prince of Monaco.
After Stephanie's death, Mannheim Palace was used for a variety of purposes, including a school founded by Stephanie, the Rhine Shipping Commission, and various courts. Today Stephanie's apartments have been restored, and display elements from the Odiot silver dinner service where she once set her impressive Empire-style table.
In the later 19th century, the service was owned by Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden (1826-1907; regent 1852, succeeded 1856). He was a member of the Hochberg line, descended from the half-brother of Stephanie's husband Grand Duke Karl, being the children of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich by his second, morganatic marriage. This line received full dynastic rights from Grand Duke Karl after he and Stephanie failed to produce an heir. In 1856 Friedrich married Princess Louise of Prussia, daughter of the future Wilhelm I. As his only son-in-law and a reigning monarch of Germany, Friedrich was present for the proclimation of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles in 1871, and was personally the first person to hail Wilhelm as Emperor. He was a progressive politician and political reformer, advocating a constitutional monarchy as well as national unity under Prussia.
We would like to thank Olivier Gaube du Gers for his assistance in cataloging this lot.