345

Details & Cataloguing

Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels

|
Geneva

Rare sapphire, emerald, ruby and diamond pin, early 19th century and later
Set with a cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 45.79 carats, surmounted by a calibré-cut emerald-set Roman helmet, each side decorated with a flag and two Roman lances, a monogram and a shield set with seed pearls, the base composed of a sword, laurels, hatchet and crossed canons with a drum in the center, the surmount representing an eagel set with emeralds and a ruby, supporting a later added segment of pavé-set circular-cut diamonds, case stamped Cartier, plaque inscribed 'Presented by Emperor Napoleon Ist to Countess Waleska'.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Accompanied by AGL report no. CS 1077408, stating that the sapphire is of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating.

Provenance

Given by Napoleon I (1769-1821), Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days, to Countess Maria Waleska (1786-1817).

Later given by Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, 3rd Baronet of Kensington Gore (1888-1939), to Princess Marthe Bibesco (1886-1973) in the 1930s.

Literature

Cf.: Christine Sutherland, Enchantress, Marthe Bibesco and Her World, London, 1996, pgs. 191 and 299 for paragraphs referring to lot 345 and its provenance.

Catalogue Note

This impressive pin was given by Napoleon I (1769-1821), Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days, to Countess Maria Waleska (1786-1817). The motif surmounting the central sapphire is a Roman Helmet, alluding to Napoleon’s wish to associate himself with the great rulers of the Roman Empire. Other emblems, including two crossed canons, a drum and lances demonstrate further Napoleon’s desire to represent military strength. To the right of the central sapphire is a monogram depicting a ‘WN’ entwined, alluding to the Emperor and the Countess Waleska. It is believed that the ruby-eyed eagle, surmounting the piece represents the Imperial Eagle. However, it is not depicted in the usual proud stance, instead it is a recumbent eagle, considered to provide a form of protection to the rest of the jewel, and therefore to the person it is given to.

Countess Maria Colonna Walewska (née Lackzinska) was born in 1786 into a Polish family. Her father, Mathieu Laczynski, who had fought heroically during the struggle for Polish independence, died prematurely, leaving his wife Eva with six young children on her own. Maria married Count Athanase Walewski, 55 years her senior, and bore him a son, Antoni Rudolf Bazyli Colonna-Walewski. Together with her husband, they shared a great passion for their nation and became fervent patriots for the freedom of their country, which was at the time dominated by their neighbours Russia, Prussia and Austria. Napoleon returned the country back to the Polish in 1807.

A popular and romantic account of Countess Maria Waleska and Napoleon’s first meeting tells that, in 1807, Maria was waiting for the Emperor outside, despite the chill of a bitterly cold Polish winter, at a place Napoleon was due to change horses before heading to Warsaw. It is said that Maria pushed her way through the crowd and asked France’s Grand Marshal of the Palace, Géraud Duroc, to be led up to Napoleon’s carriage, where she stuttered: “welcome, a thousand times welcome to our land…”. From that meeting followed a long love affair between the two, that led to the birth of their child, Alexander in 1810.

Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels

|
Geneva