Google+ The Daily Jewel: Results - Napoleon and Josephine Engagement Ring

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Results - Napoleon and Josephine Engagement Ring

The results are in...$949,000, almost 50 times the $20,000 Osenat had expected to bring in. 

“In my wildest dreams, I did not think we would outsell the estimate by more than 47 times,” said Osenat’s Emily Villane, who led today’s auction. “We based the estimates in our catalog on the actual market value of the ring, minus Napoleon and Josephine provenance. It is not our job to tell bidders how much they should pay for the historical premium.”



So why would someone pay 50 x what an item is worth?  ...the notoriety of a previous owner of the object is one reason that we have witnessed in auctions like the fairly recent Elizabeth Taylor Auctions.

The everything Dolce & Gabbana site Swide describes the auction as...

"The catalogue is full of incredible mementos like first editions of the Napoleonic Code, canes used by the Emperor himself, portraits of him and his family including a very special one depicting Napoléon François Joseph Charles, Napoleon’s only son and heir. "

I think all of this would however be great news to Napoleon Bonaparte. 



Born an aristocrat...Died defeated, exiled to St Helena. Yet, there is a definite romance to his story.  Interesting because before Napoleon you probably don't have descriptions of daily life and items that can be purchased with the monarch's image.  Considered to be the  first of the nobility to promote his image, Napoleon had china, pots, hammers, spades, fire pokers and candle holders produced with his likeness on them. 

BUT...Napoleon knew the importance of lineage and the Emperor (he promoted his title to Emperor of France in 1804 and King of Italy the following year) needed an heir.  So, a true marketer, his childless marriage to Josephine was dissolved in 1809 and one year later he married Marie Louise, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, in April 1810. She bore him a son, Napoleon II, March 1811.

Following the divorce they remained friendly, Josephine was allowed to retain her title as Empress, and was moved to the elaborate La Malmaison, near Paris, where she had a dignified retirement and maintained a friendly relationship with Napoleon. So we know that this ring was a true declaration of love from the 27 year old Brigadier General, to a woman he pursued for two years, the widow of Viscount Alexandre Beauharnais who was 7 years his senior!


Just an aside - it is truly telling just how much the concept of attractiveness has changed when you hear the descriptions of the Josephine that Napoleon fell head over heels with following a brief meeting in 1788.  

"She accepted the seven-year-younger groom as a convenience as she was a well-used lady with sexual experience that belied her unattractive appearance; teeth that were black stumps and heavy makeup, appearing shopworn. "

Or, more politely...

"Joséphine was described as being of average height, svelte, shapely, with silky, chestnut-brown hair, hazel eyes, and a rather sallow complexion. Her nose was small and straight, and her mouth was well-formed; however she kept it closed most of the time so as not to reveal her bad teeth. She was praised for her elegance, style, and low, "silvery", beautifully modulated voice"

both quotes are from Wikipedia.

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