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Christie's Negotiates Sale of Empress Eugénie’s Brooch

Apr 22, 2008 12:55 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT...  The Louvre and Friends of the Louvre acquired a diamond brooch originally planned for auction at Christie's New York April 15. The auction was cancelled at the final hour due to court order. Empress Eugénie’s Brooch had a pre-sales estimate of $4 million to $6 million and was one of numerous lots for sale in Christie's Rare Jewels and Gemstones The eye of a connoisseur. The Louvre paid EUR6.72 million (almost $11 million.)

After the sale was cancelled however,  a private sale of the brooch was negotiated to the Louvre by François Curiel, president of Christie’s Europe, with the agreement of the owner.

“Among the great missions of the Louvre is the development of the museum’s collections,"  said Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre in Paris.  Of particular interest to the famous museum, any works of art  and precious objects belonging to members of the former French Royal family.

diamond brooch louvre

"The crown jewels are important among the nation’s treasures and we are thrilled to see the brooch of Empress Eugénie returning to France, thanks to the Friends of the Louvre, the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rouffet and the support of the French State,” Loyrette said.

Empress Eugénie’s Brooch

The sensational antique diamond bow brooch (pictured) was made in 1855 by the Parisian jeweler François Kramer for Empress Eugénie. A Spanish countess, Eugénie de Montijo — Doña María Eugénia de Guzmán Portocarrero, Countess of Tèba — was born in Granada, Spain in 1826, and married Louis Napoléon in 1853 at Notre Dame Cathedral. Eugénie was one of the most beautiful consorts of her time, and was also considered a tastemaker of fashion, commanding Europe’s attention.

In 1887, the French government decided that the once exclusive property of French queens and kings would be made available to the highest bidder in a public auction. The Empress Eugénie bow brooch was bought by the jeweler Emile Schlesinger. The large and impressive diamond bow was originally intended as a buckle for a diamond belt. Later, Eugénie asked one of her jewelers to make it more elaborate, and thus five diamond pampilles and a pair of diamond tassels were added. The rich style of the jewel was in accordance with the taste of the Empress and it was transformed into a magnificent stomacher: A decoration pinned to the chest, extending down to the waist. Schlesinger acquired the brooch for Mrs. William B. Astor.

Caroline Astor insisted upon being called "The Mrs. Astor" by family and friends and also devised the famous “400,” a list of 213 families and individuals whose lineage could be traced back to at least three generations. The Empress Eugénie brooch, known as one of the most famous jewels of the Gilded Age, became commonly referred to as “Mrs. Astor’s diamond stomacher” and remained in the Astor family for more than 100 years.


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