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 Christies
Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva on 12 May 2021. 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 Stephanies 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 country side. Soon after her aunts 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 therewith 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, Hortenses financial papers, which are kept in the Napoléon archive in Paris, give evidence of her fortune between 1817 and 1837, the year she passed away. They show that she left Paris in 1816 with little money, but a lot of jewellery.
After Stephanies death in 1860 the sapphire parure described as necklace, pendant, earrings, 7 pins and a belt was inherited by Stephanies second daughter, Josephine, Princess of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. Under Napoléons 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, Stephanies 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.