A Symbol of Friendship: Charles Ritz and Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)
Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 in Chicago, his father was a physician and his mother a musician. It is sure that neither parent knew what the future would hold for their newborn son, but history was set into motion. Ernest Hemingway was later destined to become the most recognized American writer in history.
His early years were spent hunting, camping, fishing and enjoying summers on the lakes of Northern Michigan with his father, contributing to his love of sports throughout his life. At high school, he was an avid sportsman, although he excelled most in English class. First writing for the school newspaper, Hemingway soon ventured into the world of Journalism before later becoming a novelist.
After a brief time spent during World War I on the Italian Front, at the age of 20 he was hired as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star newspaper and he and his first wife, Hadley, decided to start a life in Europe in 1921, bound for Paris and heading for fame.
Although he travelled all over Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Caribbean, there is no place that is more associated with Hemingway than Paris. Having a residence on Rue Cardinale Lemoine in Paris' 5th arrondissement, and another just for writing at 39 rue Descartes, Paris served as a place for Hemingway to grow his talents and meet other aspiring artists such as Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and James Joyce. It also served as inspiration for many of his most famous works; The Sun Also Rises and Men Without Women.
Paris in the 1920s: The Ritz Hotel
In the roaring Art Deco period following World War I, Paris became the epicenter of European taste. Once a private mansion built in the early 18th Century by its founder, Cesar Ritz in 1898, the Ritz Paris was transformed into one of the most elegant residences in the world and is still regarded as such today.
A destination to many notables of the time, including Coco Chanel, President Roosevelt, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many more, Ernest Hemingway is known to have frequented the Paris hub for weeks at a time;
''When I dream of afterlife in heaven,'' he once said, ''the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz. It's a fine summer night. I knock back a couple of martinis in the bar, Cambon side. Then there's a wonderful dinner under a flowering chestnut tree in what's called 'Le Petit Jardin.' That's the little garden that faces the Grill. After a few brandies I wander up to my room and slip into one of those huge Ritz beds. They are all made of brass. There's a bolster for my head the size of the Graf Zeppelin and four square pillows filled with real goose feathers - two for me, and two for my quite heavenly companion.'' (Hemingway to longtime companion A. E. Hotchner, New York Times, 1982)
Charles C. Ritz (August 1, 1891 – July 11, 1976)
Charles C. Ritz was the first of two sons of Swiss Hotelier Cesar Ritz, founder of the renowned Ritz empire. Moving to the United States during World War I, he returned to Paris in the late 1920s where he assumed the day to day glories of the Ritz Paris alongside his mother. Known as one of the world’s best at fly fishing, his talents were broad, however, was most known by those closest to him as a very kind and generous man.
Ritz and Hemingway became close friends throughout the glittering Art Deco period of the Ritz Paris. Hemingway spent so much time at the hotel that Charles decided to change his hotel bar name in 1994 to honor Ernest and his son Jack after they loaned many artifacts from Hemingway’s life to it- which still reside there today. The bar played such a large part in Hemingway’s early career, it has become a prime destination for visitors all around the globe.
The connection between Hemingway and Ritz extends far beyond the five star Parisian hotel bar and the glittering images of Parisian lifestyle. Hemingway’s time at the Ritz Hotel acted as a ‘home away from home,’ where many stories still circulate among enthusiasts about Hemingway’s time there, especially towards the end of World War II which included reporting and liberating the Ritz Bar from the Nazis.
In 1984, the then Ritz Hotel's owner, Mohammed al-Fayed, an Egyptian businessman who with his brother also owned Harrods department store in London, established the ‘Ritz-Hemingway Prize,’ to commemorate Hemingway's attachment with the Ritz. The prize was set at $50,000 and was offered yearly to upcoming writers of the period.
The present L. Leroy & Cie. Pocket watch was given to Ernest Hemingway by Charles Ritz on occasion of his wedding to Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary. Hemingway is thought to have etched his initials on the back, although faded now, and used the split-seconds chronograph to time his favored horse races. When Hemingway died, his widow Mary gave it back to Charles as a memory.
The present Vacheron Constantin pocket watch was given to Charles C. Ritz in 1926 by his longtime friend and colleague, Swiss architect, businessman and politician, Hs. Pfyffer D’Altishofen. The two hotelier moguls worked together presiding over one of the most famous hotels in the world, The Grand National Hotel, Lucerne, Switzerland, and later Hs. Pfyffer D’Altishofen became President of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
The cuvette is engraved;
En Souvenir D’Amitie, Hs. Pfyffer D’Altishofen, Lucerne, 1926
Translated to English:
A Symbol of Friendship, Hs. Pfyffer D’Altishofen, Lucerne, 1926
These two watches were given to the consignor of this lot by Charles Ritz, along with a signed photograph by Ritz which reads;
“With warm regards and great friendship, Charles C. Ritz”