• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 2305

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe Including Oriental Carpets

    20 April 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 300

    AN IMPORTANT GILT-METAL, ROCK CRYSTAL, AMETHYST, ROSE QUARTZ, CHALCEDONY AND CAMEO-MOUNTED COFFRET A BIJOUX, ON STAND

    PROBABLY AUSTRIAN, SECOND HALF 19TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN IMPORTANT GILT-METAL, ROCK CRYSTAL, AMETHYST, ROSE QUARTZ, CHALCEDONY AND CAMEO-MOUNTED COFFRET A BIJOUX, ON STAND
    PROBABLY AUSTRIAN, SECOND HALF 19TH CENTURY
    Decorated overall with various hardstones, including agate, bloodstone, tiger's eye quartz and carnelian, surmounted by a double-hinged casket set with portrait cameos, resting upon a mirrored 'lake' mounted with gilt-metal boats, set within a profusely-mounted turreted surround centered with a recessed panel decorated with a sunburst and geometric pattern, on a later ebonized plinth and stand
    14½ in. (36.8 cm.) high; 35½ in. (90.2 cm.) wide; 25 in. (63.5 cm.) deep, the coffret


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    By tradition, this magnificent jewelry casket has always been associated with Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, fondly known to her closest companions as "Sisi" or "Sissi". Of Wittlesbach peerage, Sissi was born in 1837 under the title of Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie. At the age of fifteen, her parents, Duke Maximilian Joseph and Duchess Ludovika of Bavaria, introduced to her maternal first cousin, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria to whom she became betrothed. While many believed that the Habsburg Emperor, then 23, would marry her older sister, Helen, Franz Josef became infatuated with Sissi's remarkable beauty and the pair was united in April of 1854. Sissi bore the Emperor three children in quick succession; Archduchess Sophie in 1855, Archduchess Gisela in 1856, the Crown Prince, Rudolf in 1858, followed by a fourth child, Archduchess Marie Valerie in 1868.

    While it is speculated that the present lot may have been part of the bride's trousseau, this exceptional casket does not appear in records of the inventory its contents, which had been well publicized in the days preceding their marriage. However, it is widely known that Emperor spoiled his young, rebellious wife excessively and was known to indulge her extravagant tastes with jewelry, objets de vertu, and opulent decorations. On one occasion, Franz-Josef presented Sissi's with his mother's diamond-encrusted diadem, which the Empress wore on her wedding day. Knowing her impeccable style and taste, this coffret was very likely one of the many gifts bestowed upon the Empress throughout her lifetime.

    In essence, Sissi became, and remains, an iconic figure in Austrian, Hungarian and German history. Though her extensive and exotic travels, unparalleled patriotism and flawless style left a rich and enduring legacy, the Empress was also marred by numerous tragedies later in her life, culminating with the untimely death of the Crown Prince in 1889 and her assassination in 1898. On September 10th, Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, intent on murdering a member of an "elite and oppressive" class, stabbed Sissi in the heart as she boarded a steamship on Lake Geneva.

    Provenance

    By tradition: Empress Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Austria (1837-1898). Hôtel Drouot, Paris, circa 1985.