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Sotheby's to Offer Exquisite Fine Arts with Links to Europe's Most Important Aristocratic Families
Alphonse Giroux Set of Drawing Instruments. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s announce Noblesse Oblige, the sale of an exquisite selection of decorative and fine arts with remarkable links to some of Europe’s most important aristocratic families on Thursday 14th April 2011. A highlight of the sale is the largest group of property from the collection of the Duchesse de Berry to come to the market since her lifetime - which gives a highly personal insight into the life of one of the most remarkable, unconventional and iconic women of the 19th century - in addition to property descended from the Royal Bourbon Family and the Austrian Imperial Family, as well as an important group of property that represents the Neoclassical Grand Tour period in magnificent form.

The sale comprises a total of 500 lots, estimated to fetch in excess of £2 million, and the furniture, paintings, silver, ceramics and textiles embody the pinnacle of decorative arts from a bygone era - many of the pieces carrying with them the remarkable histories of the notable homes and owners from which they originate.

Philipp Wurttenberg, Managing Director of Sotheby’s Germany said: "“The sale of this significant group of property from the collection of the Duchesse de Berry is testament to the exquisite taste and eye for the finest objects that this extraordinary and rightly renowned lady possessed. They also reflect the quality and rarity of the other items of aristocratic provenance to be offered – the entire sale is compiled of pieces that were originally selected by European aristocrats and connoisseurs for their craftsmanship and beauty and will no doubt appeal to discerning collectors today.”"

Property Descended from the Duchesse de Berry
She was the most portrayed Princess of her time, and thanks to the new art form of lithography the Duchesse de Berry rapidly became known throughout Europe. Poets and composers dedicated works to her and her influence on the fashion of romanticism – on romantic opera especially, on contemporary painters, draughtsmen, miniaturists, cabinetmakers and porcelain manufactures, whose works she acquired to expand the famous collection of her late husband - was second to none. A highlight of the group of items to be sold from the Duchesse de Berry’s collection is an important gilt-bronze mounted double-cased set of drawing instruments (est. £45,000 – 70,000*) by famous Parisian luxury goods maker Alphonse Giroux (1775-1848). The set is inlaid on the front with miniatures of the Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870) with her children Henri, Duc de Bordeaux (1820-1886) and Louise de France, later Duchess of Parma (1819 – 1864) by one of the most famous miniaturist of the time, Joseph-Hippolyte Lequeutre (1793-1877). Providing a further and particularly intimate insight into the Duchesse de Berry’s life is a set of eleven grisailles on the back of the case by Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767– 1855), depicting interior views of the Chateau de Rosny (est. £12,000 – 18,000). These grisailles are the only known depictions of the Duchesse going about her daily life at her beloved Chateau de Rosny, showing us how the rooms of Rosny were decorated after the extension of the castle in 1823. They allow us to visualise the atmosphere of some rooms, especially of the big salon, the Billiard and the library.

Further highlights from the selection of property descended from the Duchesse de Berry include a French exhibition quality parcel-gilt silver musical automaton model of the Océan classe ship Duc de Bordeaux, given to the son of the Duchesse de Berry, Henri, Duc de Bordeaux on the occasion of his christening in 1821 by the city of Bordeaux (est. £50,000 – 80,000).

Furniture with the inventory marks of Chateau de Rosny will also be included in the sale, such as a set of mahogany seat furniture by Jacob, circa 1820, (est. £10,000 – 15,000), in addition to three Royal paintings by Vicente López y Portaña (1772-1850), depicting of Don Francisco de Paula of Spain (1794-1865) (est. £15,000 – 20,000), his wife Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily (1804 – 1844) (est. £12,000 – 18,000) and their daughter Isabel of Bourbon, Infanta of Spain (1821-1897) when a baby. These paintings hung in the private apartments of the Duchesse de Berry in the Pavillon Marsan in the Tuileries.

The Duchesse de Berry
Maria-Carolina, Princess of Naples and Sicily, was born in the royal palace of Caserta. She was the daughter of Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Clementina, Archduchess of Austria. Her grandmother was the Queen Carolina of Naples, herself a daughter of the celebrated Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. In 1816, aged eighteen, this young, blonde, light-hearted and energetic princess was married to Charles Ferdinand, Duc de Berry, heir apparent to the French throne, thus becoming Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry. The couple lived in the Élysée Palace before acquiring Chateau de Rosny, where they spent most of their time and which quickly became their favourite residence, allowing them to escape the strict etiquette of the Royal Court at Tuileries and live freely. A daughter was born and shortly after, but then on 13th February 1820 the Duke was murdered as he and his wife left the opera, and it appeared that with his death the old line of the Bourbon dynasty had come to an end. But fate had a further twist when, seven months after the death of his father, the desperately desired heir to the throne of France, Henri, Comte de Chambord, Duc de Bordeaux, was born in September 1820.

This birth was seen as a miracle, not least because the little prince was born on 29 September, the feast of St Michael, the patron saint of France. The population of France instantly fell in love with the child and his mother. From then on the Duchesse de Berry became the undisputed social centre of the royal court, the most fashionable and most portrayed princess of her time. Thanks to the new art form of lithography her image quickly became known throughout Europe. She shortened her skirts, showed her ankles, dressed in menswear for horse riding and arranged fancy dress balls in the Tuileries. Bored by the Empire style the duchess adopted the neo-Gothic, adored the Renaissance and redesigned the castle and park of her beloved Rosny. Her influence on the fashion of Romanticism was paramount in every sphere, from theatre and the romantic operas of Rossini to the contemporary painters and draughtsmen whose works she acquired to expand the famous art collection of her husband, not forgetting miniaturists, cabinetmakers, ivory carvers (!) and porcelain manufactories among many others. Famous poets and composers dedicated works to the duchess and the French statesman François René de Chateaubriand recounted her life story in his Memoirs from beyond the grave, which was to become one of the most widelyread books of the 19th century, published in 14 languages.

Property descended from the Royal Bourbon Family
A selection of paintings, furniture, porcelain, Fabergé, miniatures and silver formerly in the collections of the royal family of Bourbon and the Imperial family of Austria will be offered. Among the exquisite group of items is an exceptional set of 17 silver dinner plates from the Second Sachsen-Teschen Silver Service (est.£12,000 – 18,000) which was commissioned by Empress Maria- Theresia of Austria in Vienna - mother of Marie Antoinette - with silversmith Ignaz Josef Würth for her favourite daughter Marie-Christine (‘Mimi’) and her son-in-law Prince Albert of Saxony Duke of Teschen, grandson of King Augustus the Strong, when the couple moved to Brussels in 1780 where they were appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands.

In 1904 Edmund W. Braun described the Sachsen Teschen service as the ‘second most important work of the old-Viennese art of gold-and silver work’ (the gold breakfast garniture of Maria Theresa being the first), and parts of this superb service were exhibited in the 2010 Metropolitan Museum of Art in the show Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered. The silver service was certainly used in Laeken Palace (the present-day home of the Belgian royal family) whose opening festivities occurred in 1785. ‘Mimi’ was the only child of Maria Theresia allowed to marry for love rather than for reasons of state. The vast art collection the couple assembled is today housed in the Albertina in Vienna. Much of the service was sold anonymously at Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 6th May 1947, but many of the numbers missing from the plates sold in the Lucerne auction are found on the plates to be offered now.

Love and romance also feature in the sale. A beautiful Fabergé gold-mounted cigarette case (made in St Petersburg by workmaster Henrik Wigström in 1906) stands as an evocative token of the triumph of love over the strict edicts of Imperial marriage. While serving as Austrian military attaché in St. Petersburg from 1902 – 1907, Prince Gottfried zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1867-1932) met and fell in love with Archduchess Maria Henrietta of Austria (1883-1956). The love was reciprocated, but apparently thwarted: as a member of the Teschen branch of the Habsburg family, Maria Henrietta was destined to marry into one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe. From a mere princely family, Gottfried was of insufficient rank, but the couple were blessed with an effective advocate. Empathising with her sister’s quest, Maria Henrietta’s sister, Maria Anna, pleaded with Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) to allow the match. Her voice was heard and Gottfried and his love were married on 3 June 1908 in Baden. It seems Prince Gottfried purchased this Fabergé case (now estimated at £10,000-15,000) in St. Petersburg as a gesture of gratitude, having it engraved for his future sister-in-law with the touching reference to her as 'The Un-named Saviour'.

Property of a German Princely family
An Imperial Russian order of St. Catherine, second quarter 19th century (est. £60,000 – 80,000) will also feature in the sale. The order of St. Catherine was created by Peter the Great on the occasion of his marriage in 1714. His wife, later to become Catherine I, was the first holder of the New Order designed exclusively for ladies.

Further Sale Highlights
The sale also includes property from the collection of a European connoisseur, comprising a variety of beautiful Neoclassical grand tour objects as well as Fine Italian Furniture and a life-size oil portrait of King Ferdinand IV of Naples £20.000 – 30.000. A further highlight is an important Russian tapestry which, probably made in the Imperial workshop in St. Petersburg circa 1840, records the union of Prince Willem Frederik George Lodewijk van Oranje-Nassau (1792-1849) and Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna (1795-1865), daughter of Tsar Paul. A symbol of the recent alliance created by the Congress of Vienna, their marriage (in 1915) was a happy one. After a first year together in Russia, they moved to the Netherlands where, after the abdication of King Willem I on 7 October 1840 William became King Willem II of the Netherlands and Anna his Queen Consort. It is likely that this tapestry, estimated at £30,000-50,000 was specially made for this occasion.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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