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Home>Collection & Louvre Palace>Curatorial Departments>Necklace and earrings of the Empress Marie-Louise

Necklace and earrings belonging to the empress Marie-Louise

© 2004 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
19th century

Author(s):
Anne Dion

The necklace and earrings were originally part of a parure which Napoleon I presented to Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria on the occasion of their wedding in 1810, and which was subsequently bequeathed by the empress to Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany. The necklace alone comprises 32 emeralds (the center emerald weighs 13.75 metric carats), 874 brilliants, and 264 rose diamonds.

The necklace and earrings

The complete parure which Napoleon presented to Marie-Louise on the occasion of their wedding consisted of a tiara, a necklace, a pair of earrings, and a comb.
The necklace comprises ten alternating oval and lozenge-shaped emeralds surrounded by diamonds. These are separated by palmettes, each of which encloses a small round emerald. A pear-shaped emerald surrounded by diamonds hangs from each large emerald. The center emerald (13.75 metric carats) is eight-sided. Each earring consists of a large pear-shaped emerald, embellished with brilliants and two smaller emeralds.

François-Regnault Nitot

For his wedding to the Austrian Archduchess on April 2, 1810, Napoleon commissioned two splendid parures from the jeweler "Etienne Nitot et fils": one of emeralds and diamonds, the other of opals and diamonds. Both were to become part of the young empress's private jewelry collection, unlike two dazzling parures (of diamonds, and of pearls and diamonds) and parures of lesser value (such as the gold and mosaic one, now in the Louvre) which were presented by the same jeweler on the same occasion, but listed in the inventory of the Crown Jewels. An expert evaluation of the emerald set, which was delivered at the end of March, provided information as to the composition of this private parure.
"Etienne Nitot et fils" was managed at that time by François-Regnault Nitot (1779–1853), who succeeded his father Etienne after the latter's death in March 1809.

Well-traveled jewels

When Marie-Louise left Paris on March 29, 1814, she took all her jewelry with her; she had to return the Crown Jewels to the emissary of the Bourbons, but kept her personal jewelry items. She bequeathed the emerald parure to her cousin Leopold II of Habsburg, Grand Duke of Tuscany, whose descendants kept it until 1953, when it was sold to the jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. The emeralds from the tiara were then sold one by one; a wealthy American collector bought the tiara and had it set with turquoises instead of emeralds before bequeathing it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1966. The comb was transformed, but the necklace and pair of earrings were fortunately preserved in their original state, and joined the Louvre's collection in 2004 thanks to the Fonds du Patrimoine, the Friends of the Louvre, and the museum's management.

Technical description

  • François-Regnault NITOT (1779 - 1853)

    Necklace and earrings belonging to the empress Marie-Louise

    1810

    Paris

  • Necklace: 32 emeralds; 1138 diamonds; gold; silver
    Earrings: 6 emeralds; 108 diamonds; gold; silver

  • Acquired in 2004 with the support of the Fonds du Patrimoine and the Society of Friends of the Louvre

    OA 12155, OA 12156

  • Decorative Arts

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