The historic jewelry and watchmaking maison, Chaumet, unveiled during Couture Week in Paris, its newest collection of high jewelry and watches entitled “Joséphine,” dedicated to an emblematic figure that has been an icon of the maison since the early 19th century.
Marie-Josèphe-Rose, better known as “Joséphine,” the pet name given to her by Napoléon Bonaparte, was crowned Empress in 1804. A modern, daring woman of her time, Joséphine quickly became the most eminent client of Marie-Etienne Nitot, the maison’s founder thanks mainly to the romantic yet audacious bejeweled headwear she ordered and helped make fashionable during the Empire period.
Nitot and his son - François Regnault Nitot - after him, were Emperor Napoléon I’s official jeweler, and entertained close ties to the imperial throne, building a reputation for high craftsmanship and quality in Parisian society with the formal jewelry they created for Empress Joséphine and, later, Empress Marie-Louise, Napoléon’s second wife.
Following a first collection dedicated to Joséphine in 2010, Chaumet’s new collection returns to its beloved icon, with special attention this time to the light, transparency and volume of white diamonds in lavish pear-shaped cuts, capturing the feminine, delicate style of the Empress known for her preference for the graceful lines of foliage and floral motifs, the sensuality of arabesques and the soft filigree of lace.
“Our first season of the Joséphine collection in 2010 had traced the path for us,” said Jean-Marc Mansvelt, chief executive of Chaumet. “For the second season, we have brought back certain motifs with the idea of returning to more ‘luminous’ pieces.”
The 45-piece haute joaillerie collection features five timepieces presented under the themes of Aigrette Impériale, Rondes de Nuit and Éclat Floral.
The Aigrette Impériale timepiece revisits the theme of the graceful head ornament shaped as the tufted crest, or head-plumes, of the egret. Its oval-shaped dial is fully paved, and with its interlaced diamond-paved chain bracelet, is set with 1367 diamonds weighing at 17.69 carats.
The Rondes de Nuit, features three timepieces on black satin bracelets, with generous volumes accentuated by pear-shapes executed in the paved dials and also on the movable cover of the secret watch.
Finally, the Éclat Floral timepiece in platinum, the most delicate and lacy watch in the collection, features a pear-shaped diamond crowing a white-gold dial fully paved with diamonds weighing at 15.01 carats with its one-diamond-row bracelet, also available on a black satin bracelet.
The launch of Chaumet’s Joséphine collection coincided with the recent opening of the little-known “Boudoir Turc de Joséphine” a small secret bedroom used by the Empress in which, during hunting retreats at the Château de Fontainebleau outside Paris, she sought refuge from the pomp and circumstance of imperial life.
The Boudoir Turc, named for its ottoman-style accouterments including figurines wearing turbans, moon crescents, sabers and stars, in a décor of arabesques much appreciated both in the 18th century and by Joséphine, was originally built as a secret chamber for Marie Antoinette in 1777. It is the only one of its kind to remain today, while two others at the Château de Versailles did not survive the overthrow of the Ancien Régime and the fall of the Empire. The precious, intimate jewel of a room is now open to the public on appointment, but visible only from behind a glass panel that separates the bedroom from its antechamber, for a rare glimpse at the intimate side of an Empress’s life.
Click on the photo at the top of this article to see a slideshow of the full Chaumet Joséphine collection.