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Watch for Napoleon’s Mother, Letizia Bonaparte
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Watch for Napoleon’s Mother, Letizia Bonaparte


Description Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description This unusual watch has no numbers, it belongs to a type called "montres à tact" or discrete watches. The clever design allows the time to be told by touch alone, feeling the four diamonds on the hour and the quarters, and the pearls that mark the remaining divisions of the twelve hours. The raised arrow, also in diamonds, contrasts with the smooth surrounding enamel, taking the place of watch hands. It was made for Maria Letizia Bonaparte, Napoleon’s mother, who lost her sight as she aged. The case employs a process called guilloché, where subtle but kaleidoscopic effects are created through mechanical means. Geometric shapes are carved into metal by engine turning. The resulting patterns of fine lines are covered with transparent enamel, when light hits them it creates oscillating optic effects.
Exhibitions
  • Objects of Vertu: Precious Works of the Eighteenth Century. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984.
  • Vive la France! French Treasures from the Middle Ages to Monet. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1999-2000.
  • Pearls. American Museum of Natural History, New York; The Field Museum, Chicago; Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta; Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston; Midland Center for the Arts, Midland; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. 2001-2005.
Provenance Nobile Maria Letizia Bonaparte née Ramolino [1750-1836], Italy, after May 26, 1805; inherited (?) by Princess Mathilde Letitia Wilhelmine [1820-1904]. Acquired by Anatole Demidoff, Prince of San Donato [1812-1870]. Tiffany and Company, New York, prior to 1893 [1]. Acquired by Henry Walters, Baltimore; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931. [1] no. 23 on 1893 list
Inscriptions [Inscription] On movement: LE ROY Hgr. DE S.A. Ile ET Rle. MADAME A PARIS 2691; [Number] Inscribed on case: 2896
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters

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Period
1805-1809
Medium
guilloché gold, basse-taille enamel, pearl, diamond
(Timepieces, Clocks & Watches)
Accession Number
58.33
Measurements
Diam: 2 in. (5.1 cm)
Geographies
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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