May 2021 marks 200 years since the death of Emperor Napoléon I (1769-1821), and it is an extraordinary coincidence that this spectacular parure of sapphires and diamonds, from the collection of his adoptive daughter, Stephanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden (1789-1860), will be offered for sale at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva on May 12, 2021.
Upper left: Lot 145 – Formerly the Property of Maria II Queen of Portugal, an Important Mid-19th Century Sapphire and Diamond Crown, Estimate: CHF 170,000-350,000
Lower left: Lot 144 – Formerly the Property of Stephanie de Beauharnais, an Early 19th Century Important Sapphire and Diamond Tiara, Estimate: CHF 140,000-250,000
Right: Multiple Lots – Formerly the Property of Stephanie de Beauharnais, an Important Sapphire and Diamond Collier, Earrings, Pendants, Brooches, Ring and Bracelet
The nine pieces, including a tiara, one collier, one pair of earrings, two pendants and brooches as well as one ring and one bracelet, will be offered as individual lots. A total of 38 sapphires originating from Ceylon were used to create this parure in the early 1800s. The collection also includes the important sapphire crown of Maria II Queen of Portugal, set with a remarkable Burmese sapphire in the centre.
STEPHANIE DE BEAUHARNAIS
Napoleon I married Josephine de Beauharnais in 1796, who was Stephanie’s aunt. Stephanie was born on 28 August 1789. Unfortunately her mother died two years later, and she spent her early years with the nuns in the French countryside. Soon after her aunt’s marriage to Napoléon I she joined them and grew up in Versailles and Paris. A month before her own wedding, she was adopted by Napoléon and became Her Imperial Highness Princess Stephanie Napoléon and was able to marry into the Baden Family on 6 April 1806, when she said yes to Prince Charles of Baden. Together they had five children; two boys, who died in infancy, and three daughters.
PROVENANCE OF THE SAPPHIRE PARURE
A record in writing, found between the boxes of jewels, stated that these sapphire jewels were given to Stephanie by her cousin Hortense de Beauharnais. Such an origin is very likely. In many paintings Hortense, and her mother Empress Josephine, can be seen wearing precious belts. Furthermore, Hortense’s financial papers, which are kept in the Napoléon archive in Paris, give evidence of her fortune between 1817 and 1837, the year she died. They show that she left Paris in 1816 with little money, but a lot of jewellery.
After Stephanie’s death in 1860 the sapphire parure described as ‘necklace, pendant, earrings, 7 pins and a belt’ was inherited by Stephanie’s second daughter, Josephine, Princess of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. Under Napoléon’s court, belts decorated with precious stones were part of any jewellery parure, as fashion dictated that the waist was very high on dresses and court ladies needed a belt which was placed just under the décolleté.
It seems the belt was remodelled into a bandeau-tiara and a bracelet by Princess Josephine, who died in 1900, aged 83. In her will, she left the sapphires (necklace, bandeau-tiara, earrings, pendants and bracelet) to her eldest son, Léopold (1835-1905). At this point, Stephanie’s sapphire parure was joined by another spectacular sapphire jewel: a crown with detachable brooches from Queen Maria da Gloria of Portugal (1819-1853).
Maria was born in 1819 in Rio, where her family, the Braganza dynasty, took refuge when Napoléon I invaded their kingdom of Portugal. Her father Pedro, King of Portugal and 1st Emperor of Brazil, abdicated the crown of Portugal in her favour in 1826. Therewith, Maria da Gloria became Queen of Portugal at the age of seven. She died in 1853 after having given birth to 11 children. Her seventh child Infanta Antonia (1845-1913) married Léopold, Prince of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen in 1861, and it is believed that their union united the two sapphire parures.