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EMPEROR ALEXANDER I

Emperor Alexander I: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, probably Duval, St Petersburg, circa 1809, elements of the jewel probably earlier
JUMP TO LOT
74

EMPEROR ALEXANDER I

Emperor Alexander I: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, probably Duval, St Petersburg, circa 1809, elements of the jewel probably earlier
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Emperor Alexander I: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, probably Duval, St Petersburg, circa 1809, elements of the jewel probably earlier
centred with an earlier miniature portrait of Emperor Alexander I wearing the uniform of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, with the sash and breast start of the Order of St Andrew and the badge of the Order of St George, below a faceted table diamond, the bezel set with rose-cut diamonds, the border of graduated circular-cut diamonds, the frame a spiralling ribbon tied at the surmount and set with rose-cut diamonds, pendant loop, the hinged reverse of silk under glass, apparently unmarked, the reverse with inventory numbers 26597 and 3702, both crossed through
36 x 28 mm
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Provenance

Emperor Alexander I (1777-1825), by whom probably given to his sister, Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna (1788-1819) at the time of her marriage, in 1809, to Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812)

With S.J. Phillips, London

Property from a Private American Collection of Historic Jewels

Literature

Diana Scarisbrick, Portrait Jewels: Opulence & Intimacy from the Medici to the Romanovs, London, 2011, fig. 343, p. 336

Catalogue Note

The late jewellery historian and curator Lilia Kuznetsova believed, from her study of the Duval archives, that the present lot is the portrait diamond that Emperor Alexander I gave to his sister, Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna, when she married in 1809.  That date accords with the style of the jewel, of a late neoclassicism typical of the work of the last of the Duval family of jewellers and before the heavier style, influenced by French Empire, which appeared after 1815.  The appearance of the Emperor suggests an earlier date for the portrait miniature, which was perhaps painted before he came to the throne in 1801.

The luxurious portrait diamond given to Catherine Pavlovna, the fourth daughter of Emperor Paul I and Empress Maria Feodorovna, stunned courtiers and others attending her wedding.  The diamond covering the image was of such quality and was so large that contemporaries recalled it as 'the size of a franc'.  Archival records indicate that the diamond was 34 carats (measured using the system of the period and not the current metric weight) and valued at an astonishing 88,842 roubles.  This made it even larger by weight than the Great Tafelstein portrait diamond, originally given by Catherine the Great to Count Grigory Orlov and now in the Diamond Fund at the Kremlin Armoury, Moscow, later set with a miniature of Alexander I.

Catherine Pavlovna was Alexander I's favourite sister.  His letters to her are filled with declarations such as, 'I am yours, heart and soul, for life'.  She was probably also Maria Feodorovna's favourite daughter.  When the 'atheist and usurper' Napoleon hinted at his wish to marry the Grand Duchess, both Alexander and his mother were horrified.  A quick wedding to the Empress' nephew Duke George of Oldenburg was arranged.  The luxury of the present lot hints at Alexander's relief that his beloved sister would be able to stay in Russia.

Sotheby's is grateful to Dr Karen Kettering for her assistance in cataloguing and researching this lot.  

Treasures

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