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THE WEDDING CASE OF THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF MONTPENSIER
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THE WEDDING CASE OF THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF MONTPENSIER
A Royal gift marking a marriage of dynastic importance between the ruling houses of France and Spain.
This sumptuous ‘Weekend Case’ was a gift from King Louis Philippe of France (left) to his son Antoine d’Orleans, The Duke of Montpensier, on the occasion of his marriage to Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda, Sister of the Spanish Queen Isabella II on 10th October 1846. It was commissioned from Aucoc, the Royal favourite, in Paris and is marked throughout with the escutcheons of both Orleans (the reigning house of France from 1830-48) and the Bourbons of Spain within strapwork scrolls surmounted by a crown.
King Louis Philippe of France arranged for his youngest son, Antoine Marie Philippe Louis d’Orleans (31st July – 4 February 1890) (right) to become engaged to the heiress presumptive of Spain, Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda (30 January 1832-2 February 1897) (right) despite the fact that she was only fourteen and already engaged to her first cousin, Francis, Duke of Cadiz, a known homosexual. Louis Philippe calculated that Francis would be unable to father children and so secured Maris Luisa’s hand to further his designs on the Spanish throne. Luisa Fernanda and Duke Antoine shared their nuptials on 10 October 1846 as a double wedding with her elder sister Isabella and Francis. Antoine was elevated to the rank of an Infante of Spain. Louis Philippe’s ambitions however, were thwarted as Queen Isabella quickly produced numerous children and he himself was forced to abdicate the French throne in 1848.
In 1868 Antoine supported revolutionaries in a rising against Isabellla and later killed Francis’s brother, the Duke of Seville, in a duel- for which he was imprisoned. Nevertheless, in the longer term, Louis Philippe’s strategy was successful as two Montpensier daughters, Marie Isabelle and Mercedes, married royalty and founded lines which continued through to King Manuel II of Portugal, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Luis Felipe of Braganza and Prince Henri d’Orleans, Count of Paris.
The large brass bound box is inlaid with spiralling silver, copper and brass ribbons and fleur de lys corners to the front, sides and the top, flush carrying handles and the coat of arms of the Duke Montpersier and his new wife. It opens to reveal a plush red velvet-lined interior containing an exceptional collection of silver gilt items, both in terms of the quality of the craftsmanship and also in the quantity of pieces ingeniously fitted into the interior.
The primary compartment contains fifteen pieces of Baccarat cut glass, variously circular bottles and rectangular boxes, all with matching embossed and chased silver gilt lids, the complete apparatus for making both coffee and chocolate, a hand held mirror and a large silver gilt ewer. The central tray lifts off to show a lower layer of eighteen manicure dressing and sewing accessories including two pairs of scissors, two pains of clippers, two mirrors with differing glasses and a separate pad of cutlery. Beneath this are a number of leather covered boxes and compartments containing two ivory backed brushes, a further glass bottle, a pair of hair pincers and a pair of hair curlers. Once all these items have been removed a large rectangular silver gilt hand basin is revealed. The interior of the lid is fitted with a shaped easel dressing mirror behind a removable velvet document wallet.
Each item is decorated with the combined coat of arms against strapwork, acanthus leaves and fleur de lys on a ring punched ground within spiralling ribbon bordered similar to those on the box.
This wedding present was a wonderful collaboration between the best craftsmen of the period. Baccarat, the most famous glass makers of the time supplied the bottles. The cutlery was commissioned from the Queille brothers, P.F. working in Paris from 1834 to 1846 and A.N. working in Augsburg. The whole was masterminded by Louis Aucoc, who proudly described himself as ‘Aucoc aine Fournisseur du Roi a Paris’ on one of the two labels.
In 1821 Louis Aucoc founded a silver-smithing business at 154 Rue St. Honore, Paris which had moved to 6 Rue de la Paix, by 1835. In 1854 Louis retired and his son, also named Louis, took over the business. He added jewellery manufacturing to their lines of silverware and engaged Rene Lalique. In 1877, Aucoc purchased the Maison Lobjois consolidating the business under the name La Maison Aucoc. They participated in the major international expositions, contributing jewellery in chased gold Art Nouveau styles and designs by Rene Lalique.
This magnificent travelling case is arguably one of the best examples in the world with its amazing range of accessories and historical provenance. Other important cases were made for Louis XV, Madame Antoinette de Charpenet and Maria Leczinska de Cousinete, Emperor Napoleon (now in the Carnavalet Museum), Maria Luisa de Rezidenz, (museum of Munich) and a necessaire de Voyage or travelling service assembled by Martin-Guillaume Biennais for Napoleon’s sister, the Princess Pauline Borghese, possibly at the time of her marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese.
Duke and Duchess of Montpensier (1846-1897)
Countess of Paris, Marie-Isabelle of Orleans and Borbon (1897-1919)
Duke of Montpensier, Ferdinand of Orleans (1919-1924)
Isabel, Dowager Duchess of Montpensier and Marchioness of Valdetarrazo (1924-1958)
Dowager Marchioness of Valdetarrazo (1958 – 1969)
From a private collection