Did you know that Sotheby’s, as part of an auction that takes place tomorrow in Geneva, had some of Marie Antoinette’s remaining jewels on display in right here New York City, and that visitors could even touch them? I did not, and consequently, I’m going to be angry at myself forever.
The pieces in question are part of a larger auction of jewels from the Bourbon-Parma family; they only survived by a quirk of history: “As King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family prepared their escape in March 1791, the queen placed all her diamonds, rubies and pearls in a wooden chest, which made its way to Vienna by way of Brussels in the care of Count Mercy Argentau, a loyal retainer to the queen,” Sotheby’s explained. Obviously Marie Antoinette never made it out, but eventually her daughter did:
Their last surviving child Marie-Thérèse, known as “Madame Royale”, was released from three years of solitary confinement in 1795. Upon her eventual arrival in Vienna in 1796 she reclaimed her mother’s jewels, which had been kept safe by her cousin, the Austrian Emperor.
The jewels were kept in the Bourbon-Parma family for generations and haven’t been seen in public, until now—or rather, until last month. I could have gotten close enough to breathe on, just an idle example, this broach.
The New York Times reported back in October, when I was doing God knows what instead of hustling my butt over to Sotheby’s:
For the first and probably only time ever, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see, handle and even try on some of Marie Antoinette’s jewelry, including a ring that contains a lock of the queen’s hair and a necklace with 331 pearls and a diamond clasp, which have never been displayed in the United States.
“I can’t imagine more important pieces coming to auction unless something from Queen Elizabeth I became available, and that’s not going to happen,” said Frank Everett, sales director of Sotheby’s Luxury and Lifestyle Division. “I don’t know what will ever match it again. I might have to retire.”
“And what people don’t realize is that our exhibitions are open to the public. Everyone can come in and look at these pieces, and even try them on. It’s not intimidating in any way. It’s like walking into a store,” Everett added. What the FUCK! All it took was some confidence, a couple of hours, and probably wearing something other than my usual flannel shirt and disintegrating leggings, and I could have been wearing Marie Antoinette’s jewels! I’m LOSING IT!
Some frantic googling informed me that the jewelry will be auctioned off November 14—tomorrow—in Geneva, so surely they’re long gone and I can’t see them in person, much less touch them with my very own grubby hands. Would they perhaps have seen the slightly wild look in my eyes and declined to hand over the jewels? Possibly! But we’ll never know for sure, now will we???????
I’M SO MAD!!!!!