Tiaras Owned by Empress Joséphine Bonaparte Resurface After 150 Years
Two tiaras thought to have belonged to Joséphine Bonaparte are going under the hammer at Sotheby’s London Treasures sale next month.
Bonaparte, wife of Napoléon, had portraits commissioned of herself wearing a headpiece that looks remarkably similar to those that will be offered at the upcoming sale.
Both tiaras are exquisite examples of the very best early 19th-century French craftsmanship. Both are part of a parure, which is a set of matching jewellery designed to be worn together, and were made in Paris in 1808.
After the French Revolution, Napoléon sought to legitimise his claim to power by popularising historical references to Ancient Rome, going so far as to mount his coronation crown with ancient portrait cameos.
His wife similarly embraced these cultural elements, and was often depicted wearing clothes and jewels associated with Ancient Rome in an effort to bolster her husband’s popularity.
This explains each tiara’s neo-classical design, which became popular during Napoléon's regime. Incredibly, both headpieces come in their original Parisian leather boxes and have emerged for the first time in 150 years, having been kept in a private UK collection.
They are being offered with estimates of US$270,000 to US$410,000 and US$135,000 to US$270,000.
Sotheby’s London Treasures sale will take place on December 7, 2021