This lot is offered without reserve.
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PRINCESS MARIA BEATRICE, QUEEN MARIA JOSE AND QUEEN ELISABETH
Princess Maria Beatrice is the third and youngest daughter of King Umberto II, King of Italy and Maria José of Belgium, daughter of King Albert and Elisabeth of Belgium, born Princess of Bavaria. The Empress Elisabeth of Austria (better known as Sissi) was her godmother.
When King Leopold II of Belgium died, in 1909, he was succeeded by his nephew Albert I, who became affectionately known as the Cavalier King for his admirable behaviour during the First World War. Queen Elisabeth, constantly at his side, also earned immense popularity in her own right, organising emergency care and field hospitals for wounded troops.
Of minute stature, so much so that she appeared almost fragile, Elisabeth was possessed of a remarkable vitality. In 1934 she became Queen Mother, following her husband's death in a climbing accident, and she subsequently dedicated herself to her passion in life, music. She established the Chapelle Musicale competition for young musicians and the Queen Elisabeth Prize, still one of the most sought-after of all musical honours.
Her enthusiasm for life and her desire to learn made her an indefatigable traveller. She was invited to Moscow in 1961, to be on the jury of the Tchaikowsky Prize, and met Krutschev and toured the Soviet Union. Not long afterwards, again accompanied by her daughter Maria José, she visited China as a tourist and met Mao Tse Tung and Chu en Lai. She was also a friend of Ben Gurion and knew Israel well. She used to say to us grandchildren that having done her duty as Queen for so many years, it was only fair she should be able to take the opportunity to visit the other half of the world before she died.
Her daughter Maria José inherited her mother's passion for music; she played the piano well and closely followed developments in contemporary music. During the Second World War, she gave most generously of herself, both in Africa and in Italy, as a Red Cross nurse. From 1946 onwards, as Queen in exile she made her home in the countryside near Geneva and dedicated herself to researching the history of the House of Savoy, publishing various biographical volumes on the most important historical figures.
Her husband King Umberto II also contributed significantly to this research, indicating documentary and bibliographical sources. He was a passionate collector of Savoyard paintings, engravings, books and works of art, which he purchased all over Europe and which were displayed in their residence in Cascais, Portugal.
The works of art on sale here were collected by three members of my family and are put up for sale by one of the heirs, Her Royal Highness, Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy.
Princess Maria Gabriella di Savoia, March 2005
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THE ROYAL HOUSE OF SAVOY
The Royal House of Savoy can be traced to Umberto 'the Whitehanded' (d.1048) who acquired Alpine territories as a feudal lord and became first Count of Savoy. His sons and the dynasty that followed progressively acquired influence and land in Piedmont, the territory east of Savoy and south of the Alps and as well as ruling Aosta, which borders Switzerland and France. Amedeo VI (d.1383) called 'the Green Count' for the colour he favoured, being the tincture of the liveries he gave to those who attended his tournaments, founded the Order of the Collar in 1362. Known today as the Order of the Annunciation, it survives as one of the oldest dynastic orders of chivalry.
In the late fourteenth century, Amedeo's eight year-old grandson succeeded as Amedeo VIII (d.1451). Though devout, he was a warrior-knight, whose faithful service to the Empire earned him the title 'Duke of Savoy' in 1416. His descendant, Emanuele Filiberto (d.1580) succeeded in 1553 and set about strengthening the House of Savoy's position militarily and administratively. In 1563 he moved the capital of Savoy from Chambéry to Turin.
The seventeenth century witnessed a great building program in the city of Turin. The future Royal Palace was completed in 1658, the Carignano Palace in 1680, and the Madama Palace, built in the thirteenth century, was expanded and refurbished. The Holy Shroud of Christ, brought to Turin in 1578, was venerated in a chapel of the Duomo, adding to the city's lustre as an important centre of Catholic Europe.
Vittorio Amedeo II, first King of Sardinia (d.1732) ascended the throne in 1675, and though wed to a niece of Louis XIV of France and faithfully adherent to French foreign policy in the early years of his reign, he was not adverse to changing sides when political interests dictated doing so. In the latter part of the seventeenth century he withdrew loyalty from France in order to support the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. When the Spanish refused to acquiesce to Piedmont's takeover of Milan, a separate treaty was written which weighed strongly in Savoy's favour and against the interests of Spain. In the War of the Spanish Succession, Piedmont reunited with France in the opening phase of the conflict. In the early eighteenth century Vittorio Amedeo II aligned with the Habsburgs and the English, and in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht rewarded him with new lands in north-east Italy and a Crown in Sicily. Seven years later Vittorio Amedeo II accepted, in exchange for Sicily, Sardinia, a realm that he could more easily rule from Turin.
During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Sardinia became a refuge for the House of Savoy. In 1831 the succession passed to a branch of the family descended from Tommaso Francesco, Prince of Carignano. Carlo Alberto, (d.1849) succeeded Carlo Felice, King of Sardinia (d.1831), his fifth cousin one generation removed, to become King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy and he in turn was succeeded in 1849 by his son Vittorio Emanuele II (d.1878).
Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Sardinia and later first King of Italy from 1861, assisted by D'Azeglio, Cavour, Crispi and Garibaldi, acquired for the House of Savoy, Sardinia's sister states and by 1870, with the acquisition of the Papal State, the union was nearly complete. The Risorgimento was a complex and controversial movement, but it's result, a united Italy was long overdue. Vittorio Emanuele II's eldest son Umberto I succeeded in 1878, married a Savoy cousin Margherita (d.1926) and moved the Savoy Court to the Quirinale Palace in Rome and lavishly re-furnished the Villa Reale Monza, Milan.
During the nineteenth century the Royal residences included the Quirinale Palace, Moncalieri, Racconigi and Villa Reale Monza. The construction of Villa Reale Monza for Archduke Alexander, son of the Empress of Austria began in 1776, and was executed by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini, who had already collaborated with Luigi Vanvitelli on the design of Caserta. Close to Milan, the Villa Reale of Monza was built as an official residence. The Villa was emptied of most of its furnishings in 1859, many of which were transferred to the Palazzo Reale of Milan for the visit of Napoleon III. From that date, Monza was occupied by Umberto I, the 'Principe di Piemonte'. After his accession in 1878, furniture was purchased in large quantities for the state and private rooms until 1900, the date when the King was killed. From then on, Monza rapidly declined and was virtually unused. In 1919, King Vittorio Emanuele III (1869-1947) took the decision to transfer ownership of most of his Royal residences to the Italian State. This date also corresponds to the return of some of Monza's furnishings to Rome, including furniture which had once come from the Quirinale, while many of the furnishings acquired by Umberto I were kept by his family. There are also frequent recorded movements of pieces between Villa Reale di Monza and the private residence of Castello di Racconigi, Turin between 1903 and 1905.
With origins in the 12th Century, the palace of Racconigi in Piedmont became a Savoy-Carignano property in 1605 and was transformed into a princely residence. Later the private property of the Royal House of Savoy, Racconigi was gifted with it's contents by King Vittorio Emmanuele III (d.1947) to his son Umberto (d.1983), Prince of Piedmont (later King Umberto II), following his marriage to Princess Maria José of Belgium in 1930. The pieces that appear in this catalogue are all privately owned. The family residence of Racconigi was acqiured by the Italian State in the 1970s, carefully conserved and later opened as a State Museum in 1980.
Born at Racconigi, Umberto was a competent officer well groomed to succeed upon his father's abdication. This he did in 1946, reigning briefly as Umberto II. In a war-torn nation, Umberto and his wife, the admanantly anti-fascist Maria José, campaigned to preserve the monarchy. In June 1946, a popular referendum decided narrowly in favour of a republic and Umberto and Marie-José moved to Portugal. 'Il Re di Maggio', as Umberto was christened by the Italian press, died in Geneva in 1983 and Maria José in 2001. They are both buried in the Abbey of Haute Combe on the shore of Lake Bourget, Savoy; ancestral burial ground of the Savoy family.