Bonhams : An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,

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Lot 133
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,
Containing an engraved emerald, dated 1813-14, probably presented by the Mughal Emperor Akbar II (Reg. 1806-1837) to Mary Hood

Sold for £ 150,062 (US$ 191,132) inc. premium
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925, Containing an engraved emerald, dated 1813-14, probably presented by the Mughal Emperor Akbar II (Reg. 1806-1837) to Mary Hood
The Mughal emerald of octagonal-cut, engraved with five lines in nasta'liq, interspersed with floral motifs, bearing the name Mary Hood and the date 1813-14, within an openwork frame of black enamel, brilliant and single-cut diamonds with calibré-cut emerald highlights at each corner, mounted in platinum, signed Hennell, brooch dimensions 3.1 x 3.3cm, emerald dimensions 2.4 x 2.65cm, tooled leather fitted case by Hennell, 4 Southampton St, Bloomsbury London

Footnotes

  • Accompanied by a report from The Gem and Pearl Laboratory stating that the emerald is of Colombian origin with minor clarity enhancement. Report number 17738, dated 23 August 2019.

    Provenance
    Mary Elizabeth Frederica Stewart-Mackenzie, Lady Hood (1783-1862)
    Thence by descent
    Private UK Collection

    The brass plaque on the reverse of the fitted case reads: "This emerald is engraved in Persian with the following words: cream of the pillars of the state, Queen and music of the age, Mary Frederica Elizabeth Hood, noblest of women, Princess, child of the Majesty of Mahommed Akbar, the Emperor, the Warrior. 1813."

    However, the inscription may be more accurately translated as: "The essence of ..., the water of life of the age, Princess Mary Frederica Elizabeth Hood, the lady excelled in glory, [considered] the glorious child of Muhammad Akbar Padshah, the Conqueror 1229 (1813-14)."

    Lady Hood, also known as Lady Hood Mackenzie, Mrs Stewart-Mackenzie as well as the sobriquet "The Hooded Lassie", was the heiress of Francis Humberston Mackenzie, British soldier, politician and botanist, chief of clan Mackenzie and last Baron Seaforth (1754-1815). She was also the prototype for the character, Ellen Douglas, in Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake".

    Born in Tarradale, Ross-shire, the Hon. Maria Elizabeth Frederica Mackenzie (known as Mary) was the eldest of four brothers and six sisters. Her youth, spent on the Mackenzie estates, Brahan Castle and Stornoway, the homes of her ancestors, fostered a lifelong love of the Highlands and its history and legends.

    In 1801, the family moved to Barbados where her father took up the position of Governor. There she met her first husband, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood (1762-1814), who was attracted to her "superior mind, happy disposition, cultivated tastes and engaging eagerness for life". They married in November 1804 at Bridgetown in the presence of her parents and despite their difference in age - he was 20 years her senior - formed a devoted bond.

    Hood, was one of Nelson's captains and had served at Santa Cruz and the Battle of the Nile. When he lost an arm during a sea-battle in 1805, Mary wrote "I love him ten times better than ever and I think he has shown himself a greater hero in his sick chamber than ever he did on the quarter deck."

    When Sir Samuel was away at sea, Mary lived chiefly in England and became friends with Lady Louisa Stuart, Mary Berry, Lady Stafford, Lady Anne Barnard, and Catherine Wellesley, wife of the Duke of Wellington. One evening, in London, she escorted the Princess of Wales to Covent Garden Theatre and was introduced to the Duke of Cumberland. It was also during this time that she forged a firm friendship with Sir Walter Scott, who was also a friend of her father. Scott valued her knowledge of Scottish lore and her "noble and generous feeling and manners, with something of the pride of high birth and a great deal of the kindly warmth of domestic affection." The two corresponded regularly and he would often attempt to lift her spirits when her husband was at war.

    In 1811, Sir Samuel was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies, and the couple sailed to India. There, Lady Hood travelled extensively and is documented as having charmed the upper echelons of Anglo-Indian society with her graceful manners. The splendour of her travels, sometimes by palanquin (a covered litter with bearers), were likened – perhaps fancifully - to regal progresses and attracted the attentions of Indian royalty. It is said she also acquired a taste for smoking the hookah and could claim to have been the first British woman to have shot a tiger.

    It is during these years that she acquired the emerald, believed to have been presented to her by the Mughal Emperor Akbar II. The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles to be inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Engraved seals were widely used and gifted amongst foreigners and noblemen in India. The practice of using inscribed seals continued into the late 19th century and well beyond court circles.

    It is not documented when she received the emerald but it is known that her Indian journals and correspondence to friends and family served as vivid portraits of events and personages during the first quarter of the 19th century; she was often asked to publish them but always refused.

    Tragedy struck in December 1814, when Lady Hood's beloved "Sir Sam" died in Madras, of malaria, after three days' illness. Left childless and short of money, she returned to Scotland and at her melancholy homecoming in early 1815, discovered both her father and remaining living brother had also recently died. The Seaforth family's estates devolved to her and she assumed the chieftaincy of clan Mackenzie. This fulfilled the prophesy – or curse - of the Brahan Seer, a 17th century Highland prophet, who had predicted the extinction of the line, when a deaf and dumb chief, would survive his sons and die without male heir and that a white-hooded woman from the East would inherit the remains of his possessions. Indeed, Lady Hood's father had suffered profound deafness after an attack of scarlet fever as a child and was so tormented by the deaths of all four of his sons, that by the end of his life he rarely spoke but "perceived his deprivation as in a glass, darkly." The last Lord Seaforth had also already started the process of selling off the family lands; Lady Hood had returned home from the East, a widow, white being the colour of mourning in India.

    Sir Walter Scott, in his poem The Lament for the Last Seaforth, wrote:

    "And thou, gentle Dame, who must bear, to thy grief,
    For thy clan and thy country the cares of a Chief,
    Whom brief rolling moons in six changes have left,
    Of thy husband and father and brethren bereft;
    To thine ear of affection, how sad is the hail
    That salutes thee--the heir of the line of Kintail!"

    In 1817, Mary married James Alexander Stewart of Glasserton (1784-1843), who assumed her family name Mackenzie and the extensive Seaforth properties, including the island of Lewis and Ross-shire estates of Brahan Castle. The couple had three sons and three daughters. After a career in politics, Stewart-Mackenzie later served as Governor of Ceylon and Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, based in Corfu.

    Mary Stewart-Mackenzie died in 1862. Her funeral was one of the last great Highland funerals to take place and was reported as one of the largest ever witnessed. A five-mile column of mourners, headed by pipers playing the clan lament, followed the hearse to Fortrose Castle, her final resting place, and was joined by followers from all parts along the 20-mile route.

    This emerald was inherited by Mary's youngest daughter, Louisa Baring, Lady Ashburton (1827-1903), the prominent philanthropist and art collector. It has since passed down through the family to the current owner.

    It is thought that the emerald was mounted as a brooch by distinguished British jeweller, Hennell, around 1925, by a granddaughter of Lady Ashburton. The resulting Art Deco jewel perfectly encapsulates the early 20th century vogue for Indian-inspired jewellery that resonated particularly in England due to Britain's colonial interests. European jewellers, fascinated by the decorative arts of Persia and India incorporated "Mughal Empire" gems and design elements, transforming them into glamorous, contemporary creations rooted in antiquity. The brooch is also a fitting tribute to the extraordinary life of Mary Hood.

    Further reading:
    Surtees, Virginia, "The Ludovisi Goddess: the life of Louisa, Lady Ashburton", 1984
    Dictionary of National Biography
    British Newspaper Archive
Contacts
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,
An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel brooch, by Hennell, circa 1925,
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