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Watch and Chatelaine

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Watch and Chatelaine

Date: late 18th-early 19th Century
Medium: Gold, enamel, pearls
244.5 x 41.3 x 15.9 mm
Markings: Movement: "Romilly à Paris" [spurious] Chatelaine: two French eagle control marks
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 368.a-b
Label Text
Interest in the Renaissance in the nineteenth century inspired jewelers to embellish antique pieces. The watch on this chatelaine dates to about 1775, while the chatelaine was made in the early nineteenth century. Painted enamel images on this chatelaine and watchcase portray Louis XVI, King of France from 1774 until he was deposed in 1792; his Queen Consort, Marie Antoinette; and other members of the royal family and court. Decorating jewelry with images of royalty was a fashionable means of commemorating the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815.

Enameled putti, each playing a different musical instrument, ornament the back of the chatelaine. As messengers of love they signify the devotion between the king and queen.
Text Entries

The nineteenth-century revival of interest in the Renaissance inspired jewelers not only to make copies of the antique style but also to embellish historical pieces. The verge watch on this chatelaine is typical of late eighteenth-century French watches, while the enameled chatelaine was made in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is decorated with portraits of Louis XVI, king of France from 1774 until he was deposed in 1792, his queen, Marie Antoinette, and their children.(1) Jewelry and watch chatelaines decorated with enameled portraits of the king, queen, family members, and acquaintances were popular in France at this time. Most likely they were created to mark the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815.(2)

On this chatelaine pearls dominate the decoration of the black and white enameled gold chains. A plaque in the center bears the monogram for Marie Antoinette. Within a shield-shaped blue ground on both sides are gold fleurs-de-lis, the distinctive bearing of the French royal family. The enameled portraits are grouped in pairs, arranged somewhat like pendant portraits with rows of pearls above and below.

On the reverse of the chatelaine are painted enamel putti, each playing a different musical instrument. As messengers of love they signify the love between the king and queen. The royal theme is continued onto the watch-case with a green-gold laurel wreath around both sides. The painted enamel vignette of a young Marie Antoinette with two children was added to the original watchcase in the nineteenth century.

Unlike most chatelaines from this period, this one has a key and seal suspended not from the waist plaque but from the pearl-set cross bar above the royal portraits.

1. A diamond-set watch chatelaine auctioned by Christie’s in Geneva in 1982 is designed in the same manner as this watch, with enameled portraits of royalty; its watch, like the Institutes example, also dates to the end of the eighteenth century. An illustration of it appears in Genevieve E. Cummins and Nerylla D. Taunton, Chatelaines: Utility to Glorious Extravagance (Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.: Antique Collectors' Club, 1994), p. 115, pl. 80.

2. For illustration of a parure with portraits of Marie Antoinette and women of the court, see Hugh Tait, ed. The Art of the Jeweller: A Catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift to the British Museum: Jewellery, Engraved Gems and Goldsmiths' Work. 2 vols. (London: British Museum Publications, 1984), vol. 2: 1984, pl. 19.