With S.J. Phillips, London
Property from a Private American Collection of Historic Jewels
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.
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