Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: The Eugène de Beauharnais Bonbonnière, 1809-1819

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This mighty fancy candy dish was made between 1809 and 1819. The portrait atop the lid depicts Eugène de Beauharnais, the stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte through his first wife Josephine. Eugène remained a staunch supporter of his step-father, engaging on the Emperor’s behalf in a number of notable battles. Eugène was viceroy of Italy for many years, but following the overthrow of Napoleon, he took refuge in Munich where he died at the age of 43.

The cameo that we see was carved by Giovanni Beltrami (1779-1854) who trained as a stone-cutter under the celebrated Giovanni Pichler. Beltrami was so skilled that he was said to be able to cut twenty figures on a single stone and is known to have created a miniature version of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper on a topaz. Beltrami was favored by a number of European monarchs, but none more so than the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth.

This attractive vessel, in addition to the cameo features a base of pierced and chased gold, and, on the lid, a frame of  pearls, turquoise, agate, enamel, and glass.

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