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Aigle de Pologne

© 1987 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
17th century

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

This brooch in the shape of an eagle entered the collection of Louis XIV (1638–1715) in around 1669. It is decorated with rubies, pearls, and painted enamel, and is probably the work of a Parisian goldsmith. The jewel represents the emblem of Poland and symbolizes the close links between the French and Polish monarchies in the 17th century.

An eagle decorated with enamel and rubies

The eagle's body is made of a large garnet cut with triangular facets. The body is set into a mount forming the head, talons, tail, and wings. This mount is set with rubies, all rectangular in cut except the two largest on the tail, which are heart-shaped. The wings are likewise set with thirty-eight rubies. The eagle holds in its talons the regalia of royalty—a crown and orb in blue enamel set with rubies, a scepter, and a sword. The rest of the mount is covered in white enamel, with the feathers painted in black enamel.

Made in Paris

The style of the enamel decoration and the way the rubies are arranged—particularly the small palmette motifs surrounding the two large rubies on the tail—seem to indicate that this piece was made in Paris. Similar gold mounts covered in white and colored enamel were common in the 17th century, both for stone vases and for pieces of jewelry such as this brooch.

The eagle of the Polish coat of arms

The form of the eagle is very close to that of an imperial double-headed eagle set with diamonds dating from the mid-16th century, now held in the Schatzkammer in Munich. However, the Louvre brooch does not represent the imperial eagle, but rather the white eagle from the Polish coat of arms. This hypothesis is confirmed by the strong historical links between the French monarchy and the last two kings of the Polish house of Vasa—Wladislaw IV (1595–1648), crowned in 1632, and his brother Jan Kazimierz (1609–1672). Louis XIV purchased a number of objects from the estate of Marie-Louise de Gonzague, wife of both Wladislaw and Jan Kazimierz, who died in Warsaw in 1667. The brooch may have been part of this estate, although this is not known with certainty, as Louis XIV acquired it just as Jan Kazimierz settled in Paris, having been forced from the throne.

Bibliography

Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p.430-431.

Technical description

  • Aigle de Pologne

    Première moitié du XVIIe siècle

  • Or émaillé, grenat, rubis, émeraude, perle

    H. : 11,10 cm.

  • Collection de Louis XIV ; acquis sans doute de la succession de Louise-Marie de Gonzague, reine de Pologne (1611-1667).

    MR 418

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 66

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