Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Put A Bow On It

A diamond brooch,
Lot 380, Sale N08925.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
Devoted Readers looking for that special gift will be interested in the December 5, 2012, Sotheby's auction Magnificent Jewels From The Collection Of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.  Those casually interested in the decorative arts might not recognize the name, but Jayne Wrightsman and her late husband have been incredibly influential collectors and philanthropists.  The thirteen Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are appreciated by thousands each year.

Mrs. Wrightsman photographed in the Living Room
of her former Palm Beach home.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
The auction will end with the sale of Lot 380, estimated $200,000 to $300,000, a diamond bow brooch with an Imperial Russian association.  The rare mid-19th century brooch was once in the collections of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, the granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II, and her daughter HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.

Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent,
wearing the brooch in a 1937
photo by Cecil Beaton.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
Princess Marina, whose father was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, grew up in Paris after the overthrow of the Greek monarchy.  She was married to Prince George, Duke of Kent, from 1934 until his death in 1942 while in active service with the Royal Air Force.  (According to author Hugo Vickers in ELIZABETH, THE QUEEN MOTHER, the Duchess was "the only war widow in Britain whose estate was forced to pay death duties").

A pair of diamond rivieres,
Lot 378, Sale N08925.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
The lot with the highest estimate, $800,000 to $1,200,000, however, is Lot 378, a pair of diamond rivieres, a type of necklace (or bracelet) with the stones mounted on the back to leave them as visible as possible.  These rivieres are not from the collection of Princess Marina, it is thought, but very similar to a pair worn in a 1949 portrait by Cecil Beaton.

Princess Marina in a
1949 portrait by Cecil Beaton.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
First cousin to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Marina became his aunt also after his 1947 marriage to Prince Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II.  Princess Marina was a popular and active member of the British Royal Family, sometimes serving as representative of the Queen in foreign celebrations and ceremonies.  She died of a brain tumor in 1968 at age 61.  (Her son is the sometimes controversial but popular Prince Michael of Kent, but that is the subject of another post entirely).


  1. I had the chance to see these pieces...a few days ago! Mrs. Wrightsmans sense of minimalism comes thru the beauty of diamonds so large and brilliant, even those that are small as in the JAR pearl bracelet. The Rivière Necklace was simply GRAND in the size of the stones and the simplicity...of yesteryear. Hopefully these will not be lost to new jewelers who think their designs are much more in keeping with the is rare to see circa 1840 earrings like diamond gumballs bearing a center diamond each the size between a Nickel and a Quarter.

    Too own the JAR ring with the diamond briolette...she has such tiny fingers for such an ICONIC AMERICAN LADY! A GREAT WOMAN INDEED!

  2. I like the rivieres quite a bit, but not the bow so much--de gustibus and all that. Lavish jewelry seems to cause equivocal feelings these days; it seems to live better in the past, as in the evocative photos you have posted.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Parnassus, I see your point; I just happen to like bows.

      Of course, the problem these days is that a bodyguard may be required to accompany the lady wearing such expensive jewels. It takes a bit of the spontaneity out of it, I would think.


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