The Tudor Rose, a magnificent diamond corsage brooch, belonged to Princess Mathilde (1820-1904), daughter of Jerome Bonaparte (1784-1860) and Katharina, Princess of Wurtemberg (1783-1835). The Italian-born Princess was a strikingly beautiful and intelligent woman, whose literary and artistic salon was the most distinguished in France during the Second Empire. The salon included such notables as Proust and Flaubert and her lavish receptions at the Chateau de Saint Cloud and Les Tuileries were renowned. In November 1840 she married a Russian mineral heir, Anatole Demidoff. However, the relationship came to a dramatic conclusion at a dress ball when Demidoff slapped the Princess causing a public scandal. Princess Mathilde was granted a separation by her cousin, Tsar Nicolas I (1796-1855), and fled to Paris with her jewels, which she used to leverage funds for another cousin, Napoleon III. Her fabulous collection of jewels was renowned as being one of the most extravagant in Europe, second only to that of Empress Eugenie herself.
After her death in 1904, Princess Mathilde's jewels were auctioned at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris - the same fate as the French Crown jewels several years earlier. The sale catalogue mentions "a corsage spray in the form of a fully open rose and two rose buds, with eleven leaves set entirely in very fine Brazilian brilliants". This is the stunning brooch, created by the Parisian jeweler Theodore Fester in 1855, and now known as the Tudor Rose.
The jewel was bought by the famous French Art Deco jeweler Janesich and subsequently sold by Cartier to Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the "Queen of New York society". As the wife of one of America's wealthiest "robber barons", Mrs. Vanderbilt amassed a jewelry collection of great importance. The Vanderbilts were among the most influential of the new American aristocracy and Cartier furnished the family dynasty with European crown jewels as well as spectacular custom pieces.
In 1972, the Tudor Rose again passed hands and was sold by Christie's Geneva to a private collector. It was from this collector that Fred Leighton was able to purchase it, and make it the keystone of his personal
Known today as the 'Tudor Rose', an oblique reference to the fifteenth century English union between the royal houses of Lancaster and York, this brooch is partie to an incredible past. Journeying from the French salon of Napoleon III to the American aristocracy of the early 1900s, Christie's is proud to offer this very special and beautiful piece of history.
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Christie's would like to thank the renowned historian, Bernard Morel, Roubaix, France for his kind assistance with the research of Princess Mathilde's brooch.
Please see Magnificent Jewels catalogue for lots 475 to 521