Marie Antoinette’s legendarily lavish life is one that’s immortalised in writing, paintings and pop culture. Yet, to truly understand the extent of her extravagance — which led to the French Revolution and ultimately, her demise — is to come face-to-face with it.
For the first time in more than 200 years, important pieces from her massive jewellery collection will be seen in public before they are sold off in Geneva by Sotheby’s. They are part of a bigger selection of lots from the Italian royal Bourbon-Parma family, who are known to have an excellent collection of stunning gems.
The lots are currently on exhibit in Dubai and will make an appearance in Singapore on 26 and 27 October at The Regent, Singapore. From Marie Antoinette are ten items, a range of necklaces and earrings decked in her favourite gems: pearls and diamonds.
The provenance for the jewels is unquestionable, according to Sotheby’s. While preparing to escape from France, Marie Antoinette’s lady-waiting documented in writing that the queen had dedicated an ‘entire evening’ wrapping her gems in cotton and packing them away in a wooden chest.
These jewels were then sent to Brussels (where the queen’s sister ruled), to Vienna (under the care of her nephew, the Austrian Emperor) and then returned to her only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse de France. The childless heir, in turn, bequeathed it to her niece and adopted daughter, the Duchess of Parma. The treasure has been kept under wraps with the family for generations, till now.
The items up for sale hold immense historical value. But the mastery of craft and precious stones used left us in awe. Here are some highlights to watch for.