• Lot 60

    An extremely fine late 18th Century gilt brass and enamel 1 1/2-inch three-draw refracting telescope, engraved "J.J. Cambacérès à Napoléon. Mai 10, 1800"


    Price Realised  


    An extremely fine late 18th Century gilt brass and enamel 1 1/2-inch three-draw refracting telescope, engraved "J.J. Cambacérès à Napoléon. Mai 10, 1800"
    Unsigned, possibly Geneva, engraved on the largest draw-tube "J.J. Cambacérès à Napoléon Mai 10, 1800"
    The eyepiece surrounded by a gilt, light blue enamel and translucent dark blue and red champlevé enamel scroll decoration, the object lens with similarly decorated enamelled band, the body-tube with repeated engraved leaf and abstract motif and two thin and one thick bands with translucent champlevé red, black and light blue enamel scroll and foliage decoration, three blank draw-tubes, the largest bearing the engraved inscription J.J. Cambaceres à Napoléon. Mai 10, 1800, unsigned.
    Overall length approx. 55 cms when fully extended

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    According to the engraved inscription on the draw-tube, this telescope was given to Napoleon Bonaparte by Jean-Jacques de Cambacérès on 10 May 1800. The gift was most likely presented to him in Geneva on this date as 'Napoleon had left Paris, to join the blockaded army in Genoa (the Marengo campaign), on the afternoon of 6 May 1800 and arrived in Geneva at 3 am on 9 May. He stayed for 3 nights with de Saussure, studied maps of the St. Bernard, arranged the timetable for the march, and made the necessary appointments for the commanders of the advance guard (Lannes) and cavalry (Murat)'; Napoleon Bonaparte: His Rise and Fall, J.M. Thompson, Blackwell Press, Oxford, 1953.

    It is interesting to note that the famous oil painting depicting Napoleon on a prancing steed ("Napoleon crossing the Alps" by Jacques-Louis David, 1800, oil on canvas, 260 x 221 cms), is from exactly this period, when Napoleon crossed the St. Bernard in May 1800.
    Jean-Jacques Cambacérès, a notorious bachelor and heavy smoker of Virginia tobacco, had a preference for subjects "à l'antique", and his importance for the history of freemasonry should not be neglected. These two characteristics are perfectly reflected in his collection of gold boxes which also witnesses the change of taste in the applied arts in France from the Louis XVI style to Neoclassicism and Empire.

    Fifteen fine enamel snuff boxes from Cambacérès' collection were sold at Christie's Geneva on 15 November 1994.

    Jean-Jacques de Cambacérès (Montpellier 1753 - Paris 1824)
    A jurist, Cambacérès held the position of a "Conseiller à la cour des comptes" of Montpellier, in 1771, and of the "Président du tribunal criminal" of the Hérault department in 1789. Under the French Revolution, he was elected a deputy at the Convention in 1792, and as such favourable to the execution of King Louis XVI. His legal projects of 1793 were fundamental for the "Code Civil", also known as the Napoleonic Code, France's first modern legal code. The code was promulgated by Bonaparte (as Emperor Napoleon) in 1804 and a revised form of Roman law, with some modifications drawn from the laws of the Franks, is still current in northern France (Coutume de Paris). The Code was later extended by Napoleon's conquests to Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, western Germany and Spain, and indirectly to the Spanish colonies in Latin America. Cambacérès's work has thus been enormously influential in European and American legal history, versions of it are still in force in Quebec and Louisiana. The Code dealt with civil law; other codes ensued for penal law, criminal procedure, civil procedure.

    A member of the "Conseil des Cinq-Cents", Cambacérès was chosen by Abbé Sieyès - on Napoleon's request - to be the Second Consul, next to Lebrun and the future Emperor. In 1804, Napoleon styled him Archchancelor of the Empire and Duke of Parma. After the return of the Bourbons in 1815, Cambacérès had to leave France but was authorised to return from exile three years later.

    Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 - 5 May 1821)
    One of the greatest military leaders in history, and emperor of France from 1799 until 1815, he conquered much of Europe. He helped remake the map of Europe and established many government and legal reforms, most notably the "Napoleonic Code".

    Pre-Lot Text

    Various Properties

    Napoleon Bonaparte's telescope