Cameo brooch gifted by Caroline Bonaparte, sourced in Scotland, sells for six times presale estimate at Bonhams

Brooch realised £51,650 after fierce bidding war

25 Apr 2012, Fine Jewelry

An intricate cameo brooch gifted by Caroline Bonaparte, the younger sister of Napoleon I that was sourced in Scotland was one of the highlights of the Fine Jewellery sale that took place at Bonhams on April 25th in London, New Bond Street. Estimated to sell for £6,000-8,000, the brooch realised over six times the pre-sale estimate and sold for £51,650.

Designed by the Roman gem-engraver Nicolo Morelli who was patronised by Napoleon I and the Bonaparte family, the brooch depicted the head of Bacchus with a vine in his hair and a lion's paw on his shoulder. The brooch was given to the vendor's great-great –great Aunt by her godmother Caroline Bonaparte, and had never been seen in public before. Caroline Bonaparte married one of Napoleon's generals Joachim Murat, who was later made King of Naples. After Murat's execution in 1815, Caroline took refuge in Trieste, where she met the vendor's relative Caroline Moore.

Jean Ghika, Director of the Jewellery Department in the UK and Europe comments, "Bonhams was delighted to offer a piece with such an unusual provenance. Morelli was a much admired gem-engraver and similar cameos by Morelli can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and British Museum in London."