Property from The Collection of Fernand and Beatrice Leval
Fernand Leval was a young Swiss executive working in Paris for the international grain trading firm Louis Dreyfus & Cie., when he was sent to New York around 1912. After the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the firm was reorganized as Leval & Co., which it remained until 1956. In 1933, he married his wife of thirty years - native New Yorker Beatrice Reiter.
Fernand and Beatrice Leval were a charming and well-known international couple who frequently traveled to Europe to visit family, friends and galleries throughout Paris. They were passionate buyers of fine art, with an intuitive and informed taste and a decisive approach. Their first early Impressionist acquisition was Eugene Boudins' L'Estuaire /a marée basse, on which they put a down-payment at Galerie Charpentier in 1939. Before they could return to pay the balance, the German Army occupied Paris. After the war in 1945, when the Levals joined one of the first groups of American civilians to enter liberated France to bring aid and reunite with their loved ones, they returned to the gallery and completed their purchase.
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In 1853, Marie-Euginie-Ignace-Augustine de Montijo (1826-1920), daughter of Don Cipriano Guzman y Porto Carrero, Count of Teba, later Count of Montijo, and Maria Manuela Kirkpatrick, married Napoleon III, Emperor of France, third son of Louis, King of Holland, and nephew of Emperor Napoleon I. In celebration, the French Crown Jewels were substantially remodeled - a task so great that several of the most famous Parisian jewelers had to be employed. The principal portion of the work fell to the recently reappointed Crown Jewelers, Bapst, with Fridiric Bapst executing Alfred's designs. One of the Empress' primary concerns was the fact that she represented the throne and most importantly, her husband and demonstrated her support by always appearing regal, as shown in various portraits by Winterhalter. Although the jewelers made many corsages, necklaces, bracelets, brooches and aigrettes, all in various styles, the two most important pieces were two diadems known as 'The Russian' and 'The Greek', into which the famous Regent Diamond could be inserted. Empress Euginie frequently wore these remodeled jewels at the Court of the Second Empire; her beauty, her exquisite choice of jewels and dresses were always much admired. Following the fall of the Second Empire and the advent of the Third Republic in 1870, Euginie and her husband fled to Chislehurst in Kent, England.
Crown and personal jewels together formed the Empress' collection, which perhaps only rivaled that of the Empress of Russia. The crown jewels were sold by the Third Republic in 1887 and her personal jewels were sold at Christie's London on 24 June 1872. While the provenance of Empress Eugenie is not conclusive, the gold embossed crest is that of Napoleon III and the stamp, stating 'Diamants de la Couronne', is found on jewelry boxes once belonging to Empress Eugenie. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine whether this necklace was part of her private collection or whether it had belonged to the State. The Empress was also known to have bestowed gifts of jewelry upon friends and relatives, which may have been the circumstance with this necklace.