Skinner, one of the nation’s leading auction houses, will host an auction of fine jewelry at its Boston gallery on Tuesday, June 16th at 10:00 a.m. Highlights include Art Deco jewelry by Boucheron Paris, important Arts & Crafts jewels, principally from famous Boston studio jewelers, antique European jewelry Réjane, a famous French actress, and large diamonds of high color with reports from GIA. More than 700 lots will be featured in the upcoming sale.
Réjane, Belle Epoque Actress: History and Royal Gifts of Jewels
A highlight of this sale is a number of beautiful pieces passed down in the family of the Belle Epoque actress Réjane (1865-1920). Réjane was a great actress of the Belle Epoque, and an early international celebrity. She was a star of the popular theater, the queen of French comedy, vaudeville and light drama. Her personality and intelligence also inspired the admiration of contemporary artists and intellectuals. She was the ideal Parisienne, a woman of inexplicable charm, elegance, and wit, and a leader of fashion.
A muse of the great Parisian couturier Doucet, Réjane was one of the best dressed women in Paris. Aubrey Beardsley sketched her at least six times in his brief career, and no less than three portraits by her friend, the celebrity portraitist Giovanni Boldini, survive. Albert Besnard’s 1900 Salon portrait of Réjane, in a flowing pink gown, was considered “epoch making” by contemporary writers, and was “continually surrounded by groups of worshippers and detractors”. Her likeness was also painted by John Singer Sargent, James Jacques Tissot and Toulouse-Lautrec. Although not a conventional beauty, Réjane inspired her admirers with what one theater critic called a “fascination” that went beyond admiration of her vivacity, animation and lovely voice. Her close friend and counterpart in the field of tragedy, the actress Sarah Bernhardt, considered Réjane a genius. Marcel Proust was first among the intellectuals who were friends and supporters of Réjane. She was an influence in the character of “La Berma”, the actress in Proust’s novel The Remembrance of Things Past. Proust told a contemporary journalist: “I have a cult for Réjane, the great lady who has worn by turns the twin masks (of comedy and tragedy), who has put all her intelligence and all her heart into her innumerable magnificent roles…” He claimed that the memory of her tragic performances sent him into fits of depression.
For many, Réjane represented the spirit of the age and what was best in French theater. When planning a flamboyant 18th century-themed costume ball, James Hazen Hyde, the heir to a vast New York fortune, made Réjane the centerpiece of the occasion. The Hyde Ball, heavily attended by high society, was perhaps the most lavish party of Belle Epoque America. Architects redesigned Sherry’s restaurant on Fifth Avenue to resemble the gardens at Versailles, complete with an orangerie, turf, armies of flunkies in period livery, several orchestras, and the dancers of the Metropolitan Opera. Réjane appeared as Marie Antoinette, alighting from a sedan chair, and performed a skit written for the occasion. Hyde toasted her as “The Queen of the French Theater”. The social pages’ reviews of the party were very favorable, even if the revelation of its cost, and the source of those funds, ultimately set off the Wall Street scandal of 1905.
Among her admirers was Tsar Nicholas II, a person of broad education relative to monarchs of the time. He was fluent in four major European languages and loved French drama. When the Tsar visited Paris in 1896 after the signing of the Franco-Russian Entente, the French government asked Réjane to perform for him at Versailles. In 1897, she traveled to St. Petersburg on the Tsar’s invitation to play at the Imperial Theater, which was usually off limits to foreign theater companies. The Tsar’s diaries, housed at the Alexander Palace, contain an entry mentioning his enjoyment of her performance. Through emissaries, the Tsar presented her with the ruby and diamond brooch offered in this sale as lot 395 (est. $15/20,000). This was not the only gift Réjane received from European royals. Queen Isabella of Spain and the King of Portugal both made presents to her; the diamond watch given her by Queen Isabella is offered as lot 401 ( est. $3/500). Additional highlights include a natural pearl necklace, lot 393 (est. $3/5,000).
Boucheron Art Deco Jewels
A number of rare Boucheron Art Deco jewels will be featured including a jadeite, onyx and diamond brooch (lot 741; est. $25/35,000); an art deco jadeite diamond and ruby bracelet, (lot 744, est. $15/20,000) and a fine 4.06 cts. emerald and diamond ring (lot 745, est. $20/30,000) with an AGTA report stating that the emerald is natural, untreated and of Colombian origin.
Edward Oakes Arts & Crafts Highlights
A group of important Arts & Crafts jewelry is offered in the sale by Boston Arts & Crafts maker Edward Oakes. The items include a 14k gold and platinum bracelet watch, composed of nine elaborate panels, each highly decorated with scrolling floral and foliate motifs, (lot 566, est. $3/5,000); a platinum, aquamarine and diamond ring, set with a fancy-cut aquamarine and an old European-cut diamond (lot 567, est. $2/3,000); a sapphire and diamond brooch, designed as a wreath with 14k gold and platinum leaves (lot 568, est. $8/10,000); and finally a 14k gold, pink sapphire and diamond ring (lot 569, est. $2,5/3,500). Also featured is an Arts & Crafts moonstone and sapphire pendant necklace, attributed to Boston jeweler Frank Gardener Hale (lot 570, est. $2,5/3,500). From the English Arts & Crafts movement is an enamel, fire opal and freshwater pearl dog collar c. 1905 (lot 571, est. $25/35,000). The dog collar is possibly the work of the Guild of Handicraft or the Century Guild, both historically important designers of the era.
The sale also offers two large diamonds of high color with GIA reports. The first is a platinum and diamond solitaire prong set with an emerald cut diamond weighing 8.02 cts (lot 742; est. $275/325,000) with a GIA report stating that the color and clarity is D/VS2. Furthermore, GIA identifies the diamond as the rare type IIa (less than 2% of all diamonds are type II), which are stones of “exceptional optical clarity”. Another fine solitaire is a 5.01 cts. round brilliant-cut diamond ring, with an F/VS1 report from GIA. (lot 723, $120-130,000) Finally, there is an unusual art deco platinum, colored diamond, and diamond ring, bezel set with a 3.18 cts. fancy brownish orangey-yellow pear shape diamond with GIA report (lot 718, est. $15/20,000).
An interesting signed item is a David Webb colored diamond and diamond ring, designed as three fused bands bezel-set with a step-cut cognac diamond weighing approx. 3.45 cts., as well as twenty-six further colored diamonds (lot 664, est. $8/12,000). Its provenance is the family of Helen Lee Caldwell, a leading designer of children’s clothes in Manhattan for three decades under the name Helen Lee.
Tiffany & Co.
Antiques from Tiffany & Co. include a heart shaped pearl and diamond pendant, set with a baroque pearl and framed by old European-cut diamonds (lot 715, est. $8/12,000) and an antique 18k gold and Limoges enamel brooch, depicting a cherub playing a violin among scrolling vines with blossoms (lot 390; est. $2/3,000).
Rare Patek Philippe Pocket Watch
Additional highlights include a 18kt gold Patek Philippe gold open face split second chronograph pocket watch, c. 1922-23, (lot 480; est. $10/15,000). This model with three subsidiary dials is rarely offered at auction. There are several other Patek watches to view, including pocket watches and a wristwatch.
Georg Jensen Collection
Finally, a large group of vintage and modern Georg Jensen is offered at the beginning of the auction (nearly 90 lots) and includes brooches, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and wristwatches. Highlights include a sterling silver fringe necklace (lot 27, est. $1,500/2,000); a 18k ½ karat gold bracelet designed as alternating blossom and leaf motif links, (lot 37, est. $2/2,5000); 18k gold flower earrings (lot 43, est. $1/1,200); a 18k gold and cultured pearl brooch (lot 42, est. $1/1,500); 18K gold and cultured pearl earpendants (lot 45, est. $1/1,500); and finally a 18k gold wristwatch with gray metal dial and blue leather strap (lot 68; est. $1/1,200).
Catalog and Preview Information
Previews for the auction will be Sunday, June 14th, 12pm-5pm and Monday, June 15th, 12pm-7pm. Illustrated catalog #2462 is available by mail for $35 ($42 for foreign requests) from the subscription department at 978-779-6241 x240. It is also available at the gallery for $29. Prices realized will be available at www.skinnerinc.com during and after the sale.
For more information, call 617-350-5400, or visit www.skinnerinc.com. Skinner’s site also allows users to view all lots in the auctions, leave bids, and order catalogs online.