Mortimer & Hunt, London, Case No. 1959, 42 mm, 72 g, circa 1841
A lady’s fine gold enamel pocket watch of historical interest and noble provenance; created to mark the wedding of French princess Mathilde-Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte (1820-1904) and Russian industrialist Anatole Nikolaievitch Demidov (1813-1870), Prince of San Donato, Italy. With correspondence of the princess
Case: 18k gold, engine-turned, floral engraving and translucent enamelling. Back with central red Greek cross on a pink-coloured background, framed by a border of 17 red enamel squares with the letters of the couple’s surnames in alternating order. Middle part with dark blue translucent enamelling, decorated with gold twines and the Demidov family motto: "ACTA NON VERBA" ("Deeds Not Words"). Gold bezels on front and back with alternating red translucent fleur-de-lys and Greek crosses. Gold enamel pendant in the form of the closed crown of a prince. Case maker’s mark "LC" (Louis Comptesse, Soho, London), numbered and signed dust cover. Dial: pink-coloured enamel on an engine-turned ground with floral engraving, radial gold Roman numerals, in the centre a red translucent fleur-de-lys, champlevé enamel, blued fleur-de-lys hands. Movm.: thin bridge movement, keywind, frosted, gilt, spring detent escapement, gold screw compensation balance, fine florally engraved balance cock.
Mathilde Lætitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte (1820-1904)
Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte, Princesse Française, was a French princess and Salon holder. She was a daughter of Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte and his second wife, Catharina of Württemberg, daughter of King Frederick I of Württemberg.
Born in Trieste, Mathilde Bonaparte was raised in Florence and Rome. She was originally engaged to her first cousin, the future Napoleon III of France, but the engangement was later broken following his imprisonment at Ham. She married a rich Russian tycoon, Anatole Demidov, on November 1, 1840 in Rome. Anatole was raised to the station of Prince by Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany shortly before the wedding to fulfill the wishes of Mathilde's father and to preserve Mathilde's station as Princess. Anatole's princely title was never recognised in Russia. They had no children.
The marriage between these two strong and prominent personalities was stormy. Prince Demidoff insisted on keeping his lover, Valentine de St Aldegonde, which of course was fiercely resisted by Mathilde. In 1846, Mathilde fled the household for Paris with her new lover Émilien de Nieuwerkerke and with Anatole's jewelry. The jewelry constituted the dowry that Anatole was forced to bankroll for his father-in-law so it formed the property of Anatole.
Princess Mathilde's mother was Emperor Nicholas I of Russia's first cousin, and the emperor supported Mathilde in her clashes with her spouse, a Russian subject. As consequence, Anatole chose to live much of his remaining life outside Russia.
The terms of the separation announced by the Tribunal in Petersburg forced Anatole to pay annual alimony of 200,000 French francs. Anatole vigorously pursued the return of his property, which led Mathilde and her strong circle of literary friends to mount highly personal and unfair counter-attacks using the public media. In the end, Anatole's heirs never recovered his property since Mathilde's last will was altered towards the end of her life.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathilde_Bonaparte, as of 09/16/2014.
Count Anatoly (called Anatole) Nikolaievich Demidov, 1st Prince of San Donato (1813-1870)
Count Anatoly (called Anatole) Nikolaievich Demidov, 1st Prince of San Donato, was a Russian industrialist, diplomat and arts patron of the Demidov family.
Born in Saint Petersburg or Moscow, he was the second son of Count Nikolai Nikitich Demidov and Baroness Elisabeta Alexandrovna Stroganova; he grew up in Paris, where his father was ambassador. He served briefly as a diplomat himself in Paris (living in the hôtel built by Charles de Wailly for the sculptor Augustin Pajou, at 87 rue de la Pépinière, now the rue La Boétie), Rome and Venice. On his father's death in 1828 Anatole settled for good in western Europe, returning to Russia as little as possible. This attitude alienated him from tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who always had an antipathy towards him.
He also considerably expanded the Demidov collection assembled by his father at the Villa San Donato near Florence, being particularly interested in Romantic art. In the Paris Salon of 1834 he acquired Paul Delaroche's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (now in the National Gallery, London). In 1833 he bought François Marius Granet's The Death of Poussin, which caused a sensation at the 1834 Salon. He commissioned paintings from Eugène Delacroix and watercolours from Richard Parkes Bonington and Théodore Géricault, as well as Briullov's The Last Day of Pompeii. His collection was split up in public sales in Paris in 1863 and shortly before the prince's death in 1870.
Like his parents, Demidov was a great admirer of Napoleon I of France, and built a museum below the house of San Martino on Elba where Napoleon had lived during his first exile and caused a mass to be sung at Portoferraio every 5 May (which is still sung today). In 1839 he was introduced by Jules Janin into the circle of Jérôme Bonaparte, former king of Westphalia, who was living in exile at the Villa di Quarto in Florence. A plan to marry Jérôme's daughter princess Mathilde-Létizia Bonaparte to Demidov was quickly formed. It was agreed she would receive a dowry of 50,000 francs in jewels (bought by Demidov for 1 million francs from Jérôme, always short of money) and 240,000 francs in money, payable in instalments. A decree of 20 October 1840 also made Demidov "prince of San Donato" to allow the princess to hold onto her title, though Demidov's princely title was never recognised in Russia. The marriage took place in Rome or Florence on 1 November 1840.
In March 1841 the couple went to Saint Petersburg, where the Tsar was full of attention for his cousin (through the Wurttembergs) the princess and losing no opportunity to humiliate Demidov by any means possible. In spite of this, Anatole began his own infidelities. On 17 August 1841 the couple arrived in Paris, where they lived at hôtel Demidoff at 109 rue Saint-Dominique until June 1842, when they moved to spend a year in Saint Petersburg before finally setting up home at the villa San Donato. Their relationship soon soured, with the princess taking count Émilien de Nieuwerkerke as a lover, and Demidov taking Valentine de Sainte-Aldegonde, duchesse de Dino, as a mistress.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Nikolaievich_Demidov,_1st_Prince_of_San_Donato, as of 09/16/2014.
Mortimer & Hunt, London (1839-1843)
John Hunt, son of John Samuel Hunt, became a third partner in the company Storr & Mortimer when Paul Storr retired on December 31, 1838. From then on the firm traded as Mortimer & Hunt. Upon the retirement of John Mortimer in 1843, new partners Robert Roskell and C.F. Hancock joined the company, which now continued to do business as Hunt & Roskell.
Louis Comptesse first registered his mark on 8th November 1804. Little information is available on this watch case maker, located at Soho Square, London. But he doubtlessly was a highly skilled and talented craftsman. Terence Camerer Cuss states: "The best known maker by far from the beginning of the period is Louis Comptesse, who worked in London and used the Goldsmiths' Hall for assays." His initials can be found in the cases made for the most celebrated English watchmakers of the time, notably Recordon, Barraud, Fatton, Viner, Barwise and Charman.
Historical and technical comments:
Despite the signature "à Londres" the case was most likely produced in Geneva. It bears the so-called quality marks similar to the London hallmarks and the marks of casemaker Louis Comtesse, who was the most eminent English maker of his time. At the time Geneva specialized in engraving and enamelling, and artists often faked the signatures of the most famous watchmakers. This annoying habit had started around the end of the 17th century and went on until the second half of the 19th century, when contracts were signed between Switzerland and the other industrial countries during and after the International Exhibition in Vienna in 1873. After these agreements were made, Switzerland established agencies for the registration and filing of trademarks as well as a patent office.
The clickwork has been designed in a very specific space-saving way to create an extra flat movement that could be fitted into an elegant case. The escapement is set between the bridges and has a 3/100-4/100 mm spring, while its gold spring is not more than 4/100 mm thick. Along with the inverted balance and its lower balance wheel this makes the watch one of the flattest pocket chronometers ever produced.
The manufacturing cost for this timekeeper’s movement must have been very high and it is not surprising at all that it was fitted into a similarly costly gold case with allover enamelling.
Case: very good, slightly worn
Dial: very good
Movm.: very good, capable of running
Dial: very good
Movm.: very good, capable of running