Marie Antoinette, who was born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna in Vienna in 1755 and was guillotined in 1793, was known for her love of all things beautiful and exotic, and some of her most precious jewels which have remained hidden for more than 200 years have just been discovered and are going up for auction.
As the Daily Beast has reported, the queen of Louis XVI had a penchant for resplendent objects and was used to the glittering world of the opulent palaces in which she lived, like Versailles with its Hall of Mirrors and, of course, Fontainebleau, which held Marie Antoinette’s beloved Turkish boudoir.
In 2006, director Sofia Coppola perfectly encapsulated the world of Marie Antoinette with her film that featured the most lavish and sumptuous sets imaginable, with both actors and actresses decked out in the most breathtaking finery.
Marie Antoinette had a particular penchant for jewelry, but this, unfortunately, got her into a world of trouble, as was the case in 1785 when “The Affair of the Diamond Necklace” began.
While historians today believe that Antoinette was a victim of fraud, the public was tantalized by the diamond necklace she was alleged to have never actually paid for which contained 647 diamonds that equaled 28,000 carats.
Given her love of jewelry, many might naturally be wondering just what happened to Marie Antoinette’s vast collection of jewels after the French Revolution really kicked off and where they all are today.
While many of these jewels were naturally considered such Objets d’art that they ended up in the hands of museums around the world, Antoinette did plan ahead knowing that she was most likely fated to die soon and had many of her gorgeous jewels secretly shipped to her family.
In Geneva, Switzerland, on November 14, Sotheby’s will be auctioning off many pieces of Marie Antoinette’s jewelry, the vast majority of which have remained secretly hidden in Vienna for over 200 years. Sotheby’s published an official press release on the precious jewels of Antoinette’s that will be up for sale tomorrow, which describes how the queen was able to successfully avoid having them snatched away during the onslaught of the French Revolution.
“In March 1791, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children began to prepare their escape from France. According to accounts written by Marie Antoinette’s lady in waiting, Madame Campan, the queen spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all of her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and placing them in a wooden chest. In the following days, the jewels were sent to Brussels, which was under the rule of the queen’s sister, Archduchess Marie-Christine and which was home to Count Mercy Argenteau. The count, the former Austrian Ambassador to Paris, was one of the only men who had retained the queen’s trust. It was he who took delivery of the jewels and sent them on to Vienna, into the safekeeping of the Austrian Emperor, Marie Antoinette’s nephew.”
The collection of Marie Antoinette’s jewelry that Sotheby’s will be auctioning off on November 14 has recently been showcased in exhibitions in New York City, London, Singapore, and Taipei.