11 April 2011

Noblesse Oblige: The Duchesse de Berry


The Duchesse de Berry

Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Deux-Siciles,Duchesse de Berry
Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1825

Caroline was born at the Caserta Palace as the eldest child of Prince Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Naples and Sicily. Her mother was an Archduchess of Austria herself the tenth child and third daughter of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Luisa of Spain. Her parents were double first cousins. more here from the Esoteric Curirosa

Tomorrow Sotheby's in London sends the largest collection of Duchesse de Berry's possessions since her lifetime to auction.

Dr. Philipp Duke of Wurttemberg, Vice-Chairman Sotheby’s Europe and Managing Director Sotheby’s Germany said:

“The sale of this significant group of property from the collection of the Duchesse de Berry is testament to the exquisite taste and eye for the finest objects that this extraordinary and rightly renowned lady possessed. They also reflect the quality and rarity of the other items of aristocratic provenance to be offered – the entire sale is compiled of pieces that were originally selected by European aristocrats and connoisseurs for their craftsmanship and beauty and will no doubt appeal to discerning collectors today.”

Princess of her time, having married Louis XVIII's nephew Charles Ferdinand d'Artois in 1816 at the age of 18, Caroline was a great patron of miniaturists, cabinetmakers and porcelain manufactures, acquiring many of their works, adding to the famous collection of her late husband. Along with her patronage of the Arts,  the new technique of lithography made the Duchesse de Berry's beauty admired and recognized throughout Europe.

Princess Maria Carolina Ferdinanda Louisa 
by Jean-Baptiste Paulin Guerin

Pierre Louis ('Henri') Grevedon, after Sir Thomas Lawrence lithograph, circa 1829 (1825)

"I painted Her Highness the Duchess de Berri, who gave me sittings at the Tuileries with the politest punctuality, and besides showed me a friendliness than which none could have been greater. I shall never forget how, while I was painting her one day, she said, "Wait a moment." Then, getting up, she went to her library for a book containing an article in my praise, which she was obliging enough to read aloud from beginning to end. During one of these sittings the Duke de Bordeaux brought his mother a copybook in which his master had written "Very good." The Duchess gave the boy two louis. The little Prince, who might have been about six, began to jump for joy, shouting, "This will do for my poor - and for my old woman first of all!" When he was gone the Duchess told me that her son referred to a poor soul he often met when he went out and of whom he was particularly fond. While the Duchess sat for me I would become irritated at the number of people who came to make calls. She took note of this and was so considerate as to say, "Why did you not ask me to pose at your house?" Which she did for the two final sittings. I confess that I never could think of such affecting warmth of heart without comparing the time I devoted to this genial Princess with the melancholy hours Mme. Murat had made me spend.  I painted two portraits of the Duchess de Berri. In the first she is wearing a red velvet dress, and in the other one of blue velvet. I have no idea what has become of these pictures." Madame Vigée Le Brun: 

In 1820 when the Duke was assassinated,Caroline was carrying their child, Henri.Known as the Comte deChambord, Duc de Bordeaux  &  to the masses as "the miracle child"-continuing the direct Bourbon line of King Louis XIV of France. A daughter Louise had been born to the couple before the Duke's death.

Other pieces in the auction of the Duchess' include  a French exhibition quality parcel-gilt silver musical automaton model of the Océan classe ship Duc de Bordeaux, given to the son of the Duchesse de Berry, Henri, Duc de Bordeaux on the occasion of his christening in 1821 by the city of Bordeaux (est. £50,000 – 80,000) lot 198.

La duchesse de Berry & her children,1822

Mme Vigée Lebrun painted the duchess de Berry in 1820 at the age of 22, just after her husband was murdered by Louvel.  After the Duke's death his young charming widow became the center of the royal court, and fashion arbiter-wearing shorter skirts &  adopting tailored menswear for riding. She also ushered in interior decoration in the Renaissance and neo-Gothic styles after becoming tired of the Empire style of the period.

lots from the Duchesse de Berry
lot 187 the Duchesse de Berry's seal  --with all lots there after to lot 252.
other auction highlights- include lots 17,18, 19, 20-jewelry of the Duchesse's period-Italian
an Art Deco console table lot 330


  1. Too bad the Bourbon dynasty was the end of French royalty.

  2. What a great beauty with a keen sense for style and the arts!

  3. I do not see a connection between this title and this content (which one never bothers to establish, oneself); but in the case of this title, which has become an empty rallying cry for poseurs (as opposed to readers here), one likes to see it validated in some conduct. Is courtesy to a tradesman-portraitist, mid-service so to speak, in that category? Possibly so, if like little Louis Auchincloss, one leads a life with his nose pressed to the windowpane, always looking in. Then a concession of glamour may result in a sad kind of consolation. For all we know, this bearer of this notorious name was a pretty nice woman. But if that is charming to us because of her things, is this why it's nobility?

  4. Wouldn't I love to be at that auction! Maybe if the princess got tired of things Neoclassic, they could come my way! Thanks for the great story and portraits.

  5. Donna, did any Bourbon rub off while you were there? need to get caught Up with your posts. I am very behind with everything.

    Victoria- It's true and I think kind.

    Mark- I would indeed. We should follow up on what things realized definitely. I think everyone will snatch up whatever she has to offer at her little tag sales!

  6. adore both of you & do think you have something (uncommon) in common

  7. Laurent, I picked up on the title that Sotheby's is using for the Auction. Their picks. the de Berry pieces are the highlight of it no doubt, less so some of the Grand Tour pieces fromaccumulated private collectors. pgt

  8. I wonder which descendant of the Duchesse de Berry is unloading these? So many of them around, including the Brandolinis of Venice.



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