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Work Empress Eugénie's Crown
Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
Empress Eugénie's Crown
© 1988 RMN / Pierre et Maurice Chuzeville
For the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855, Napoleon III decided to impress the whole world by exhibiting the Crown diamonds, which he had reset for the occasion. Alexandre-Gabriel Lemonnier (circa 1808-1884) was chosen to produce the crowns of the Emperor and of the Empress with part of these stones. The crown of the Empress, now in the Louvre, exemplifies both the pomp of the Second Empire and the virtuosity of the period's jewelers.
An imperial crown
The shape of the Empress's Crown, typical of previous representations of imperial crowns, was conceived following a pattern already found on the Imperial Arms of the First Empire. The arches are formed by eight eagles alternating with long laurel leaves issuing from palmettes. A globe topped with a cross surmounts the arches. The eagle and palmette motifs are recurrent imperial symbols. The Emperor's crown is thought to have had the same shape but it is now lost.
2,480 diamonds and 56 emeralds
The eight eagle-shaped arches are made of chased gold, the others, in the form of palmettes, are composed of several diamonds with one larger diamond in the center. Each palmette is flanked with two emeralds. The arches join under a diamond globe set off with a circle and a half circle made of thirty-two emeralds and surmounted with a cross composed of six brilliants. A large part of the Crown diamonds were used for the Emperor's crown, while for the Empress's crown, they were employed in smaller numbers. The emeralds, on the other hand, were the property of the Emperor.
The creators of the crown
Following the London Great Exhibition of 1851, the jeweler Alexandre-Gabriel Lemonnier (circa 1808-1884) received the 'Médaille du Conseil' and the 'Légion d'Honneur' for his works and was appointed Jeweler to the Prince-President (the future Napoleon III). He supplied several jewels for the Emperor's wedding to Eugénie. Finally, in 1853, he was appointed Jeweler to the Crown. The overall structure of the Empress's crown was entrusted to the jeweler J.-P. Maheu while Lemonnier set the precious stones. Both men were awarded a silver medal for this piece at the Universal Exposition of 1855. The eagles were modeled by the brothers Fannière: Auguste, (1818-1900), the sculptor, and Joseph (1820-1897), the 'ciseleur' (engraver). These two artists, who were employed by the greatest Parisian goldsmiths, were also recompensed with a silver medal.
Catalogue d'exposition : "Nouvelles acquisitions du département des Objets d'art du Louvre 1985-1989", Paris, 1990, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, pp. 249-251
Alexandre-Gabriel LEMONNIER (circa 1808-1884)
Empress Eugénie's Crown
Crown Diamonds Collection
Gold; 2,490 diamonds; 56 emeralds
Crown: H. 13 cm; Diam. 15 cmCase: H. 16.5 cm; Diam. 16.5 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roberto Polo, 1988
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