Parure of Empress Marie-Louise of Austria
Nitot et Fils
By his second marriage in 1810, Napoleon I managed to ally himself with the oldest of the reigning houses, that of Austria. Nothing is too good then to dazzle the young Archduchess Marie-Louise. Among the jewels offered is the set of François-Regnault Nitot (1779-1853) adorned with glass micro-mosaics. This is one of the rare testimonies from the Crown Treasury that have not been altered in any way.
The wedding was luxurious. The future empress received fine linen, rare lace, multiple hats, pilgrims, scarves, shoes, gold leaf fans, embroidered shawls, ball gowns, day dresses, hunting outfits, frock coats, a gold kit. and vermeil by the silversmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais and seventy-one parures all provided by the jeweler François-Regnault Nitot (1779-1853). Among these parures are one in diamonds, one in pearls and one made of emeralds and diamonds. The more modest set today in the Louvre was also part of this set.
This set consists of a necklace, a comb, two bracelets and two earrings. All these elements are adorned with rectangular and oval glass paste micro-mosaics. These ten micro-mosaics with blue glass paste framing are probably the work of Roman mosaicists specializing in this manufacture since the 18th century. Their favorite themes are generally animals, flowers, reproductions of ancient monuments or landscapes with ancient ruins. On this ornament, there are ruins among which the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, the Forum and Tivoli. We can sometimes identify the prints that served as a model like that of Domenico Pronti. The choice of this technique and these patterns reveals the attraction exerted by Antiquity under the 1st Empire.
These micro-mosaics were mounted on delicately chiseled golden vine leaves and bunches of grapes. This type of naturalistic frame is rare under the 1st Empire and foreshadows a more widespread taste in the Romantic period. The micro-mosaic ornaments were very popular, as the inventory after the death of Joséphine de Beauharnais reveals to us, which mentions a mosaic ornament surrounded by fine stones. Princess Augusta of Bavaria, wife of Eugène de Beauharnais, is portrayed with a belt decorated with micro-mosaics. Marie-Louise's Parure was listed in the Inventory of Crown Diamonds in 1811 and with the fall of the Empire it returned to the royal collections under Louis XVIII.
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