In the month of June, the Portuguese Royal Treasure Museum finally opened its doors after years of waiting. The city of Lisbon now has a new cultural sight which is housed in one of the largest safes in the world, divided by 3 floors and equipped with a sophisticated security system. It gives permanent display to a unique collection of important heritage value, with over one thousand pieces, comprising jewellery, insignia, decorations, coins, and pieces of civil and religious gold-smithery, and so assistant editor, David Rato, has written about the splendid exhibition after his visit!
The next cabinet presents a selection of smaller, yet sentimental, pieces from the collections of Queen Maria II and Queen Maria Pia. In addition to goldsmith objects, there are miniature bracelets, mourning jewellery, daily-wear jewels and family gifts. Among them, there is a bracelet with a miniature of Empress Amélie of Brazil, made with a braid of her own hair. Also, there is a collection of golden bracelets made by Mellerio and given by the Orléans family to Queen Maria II, as well as a splendid chatelaine created by the same jewellery maison.
However, the “star” piece in this cabinet is Queen Maria II’s Sapphire Tiara, a piece that made headlines last year, when it was sold by the Hohenzollern family at Christies’. Its current owner kindly loaned it to the Royal Treasure Museum for a period of a year. Unfortunately, the Museum tried to retrieve this amazing piece but due to the high price it fletched, they failed.
Following, several wedding gifts given to the Italian-born Maria Pia of Savoy are displayed. There is a suite of coral jewels, comprising a tiara that can be broken into 3 brooches and a comb. Those pieces were given to Portugal’s future Queen by the city of Naples. Also, there is as a set of 33 archaeological-inspired jewels designed by the famous Castellani and given to Maria Pia by the city of Rome. From her father, King Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s unifier, the Queen received a splendid diamond and pearl bow brooch designed by Musy.
There is a small collection of Fabergé pieces given to the Queen by some of her Italian relatives. Also, there is a portrait frame given to her by Queen Alexandra. Those are joined by daily wear jewels, more mourning jewellery and Portuguese filigree.
An interesting discovery that came into light while the Museum exhibition was being prepared, is that some “skeletons” or settings from old jewels were kept intact in the vaults when they were stripped of their gems to create other pieces. Currently, the mounting of an important Tiara, that used to be set with 4000 diamonds and whose history is extremely interesting, as well as a massive Floral Corsage Brooch and a Comb-Tiara can be appreciated.
Perhaps the most amazing piece from the whole collection of the Royal Treasure Museum is this jewelled Badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece. This massive piece, of 27 cm length, was created in Lisbon circa 1800 for the Prince Regent, later King João VI. The diamonds are huge and of amazing quality, I can assure you that this piece really shines!
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The next section is entitled “Ritual Objects of the Monarchy”. It showcases the insignia of the kings of Portugal. Those pieces played a crucial role in acclamation of each new monarch. Portuguese kings were neither crowned nor consecrated or anointed. The insignia comprises a central set of symbolic objects such as the Crown, Sceptre, Mantle, Estoc, complemented by other objects linked to certain parts of the ritual, namely the Standard, Throne, Bible, Crucifix, Cushion and Writing Table.
In this same section, the Portuguese honorary orders are also on display: the medieval religious and military Orders of Christ, Santiago, and Avis, and the Orders of Our Lady of the Conception and of the Tower and Sword. In 1789 and 1780, the jewelled Badge, Star and Pin of the three Military Orders was commissioned. And, in the first half of the 19th century, the Crown Jeweller did the same for the other three orders. Those jewelled insignias were meant to be worn by the reigning sovereign.
The next sections, “Crown’s Silver”, “Private Collections”, “Royal Chapel” and “Royal Table” present a fine and unique selection of crafted objects for civil and religious use, true real treasures, both material and artistic. They were therefore used for representation and ostentation, for Royal Baptisms, for the Acclamation, for Religious Ceremonies or Banquets and Feasts. The Germain tableware is a one of the most sumptuous 18th-century stately silver table services still complete to this day.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!