Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels | 8 June 2023

There are many spectacular Royal and Noble Jewels on Auction in this month, and we are continuing our feature with a look at the Spectacular Jewels from a Breton Noble Family that preserved Van Cleef & Arpels during the Second World War on Auction at the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Sale in New York City tomorrow! 

Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels | 8 June 2023

Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Clip-Brooch 

Estimate: 25,000 – 35,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Clip-Brooch designed as a flower set with round, old European-, old mine-, and single-cut diamonds, the stem and leaves accented by baguette diamonds, signed Van Cleef Arpels, with French and maker’s marks; circa 1940s.

Mauboussin Platinum and Diamond Necklace 

Estimate: 60,000 – 80,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Mauboussin Platinum and Diamond Necklace, the front composed of a series of stylized floral motifs centering old European-cut diamonds, accented by baguette, square- and single-cut diamonds, the back of tubogas design with a matching diamond-set pendant, signed Mauboussin, numbered 4501, with French assay marks and workshop mark for René-Sim Lacaze; circa 1940s.

Cartier Sapphire, Ruby and Diamond Clip-Brooch

Estimate: 40,000 – 60,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Cartier Sapphire, Ruby and Diamond Clip-Brooch designed as a bird perched upon a branch, its body set with a sapphire cabochon, its neck decorated with round rubies, accented throughout with old European-cut diamonds, signed Cartier Paris, numbered 09018; circa 1950.

Cartier Sapphire and Diamond Clip-Brooch 

Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Cartier Sapphire and Diamond Clip-Brooch designed as clusters of sapphire cabochons, accented by round sapphires and diamonds, the clusters connected by articulated lines of calibré-cut sapphires, signed Cartier Paris, numbered 09957; circa 1940s. 

Cartier Yellow Diamond and Diamond Clip-Brooch 

Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Cartier Yellow Diamond and Diamond Clip-Brooch featuring a cushion brilliant-cut Fancy Yellow diamond weighing 20.80 carats, topped by an old European-cut diamond, surrounded by baguette, old European- and single-cut diamonds, signed Cartier Paris; circa mid-20th century.

Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Bracelet 

Estimate: 500,000 – 700,000 USD

Jewels from the Comte de Léséleuc Family Collection

A Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Bracelet featuring 13 emerald-, square emerald- and cut-cornered square step-cut diamonds weighing a total of 42.69 carats, bordered and spaced by baguette and square-cut diamonds; circa 1940.

Catalogue Note

The story behind the six exquisite jewels offered here as lots 38-43, all beautiful examples of mid-twentieth century French design and craftsmanship, is almost as remarkable as the jewels themselves. Comte Paul de Léséleuc de Kerouara (1903-1992) came from a noble Breton family but spent his childhood in England. By 1940, he had risen to prominence in the field of insurance and was on the board of directors for several industrial and mining operations. It was his role as insurance agent to Van Cleef & Arpels, however, that proved pivotal to the course of jewelry history for, had it not been for the altruistic actions of de Léséleuc, the venerable French firm may have ceased to exist.

Renée Puissant, the Artistic Director of Van Cleef & Arpels and daughter of Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels, turned to de Léséleuc when it became clear that, as a Jewish-owned business, Van Cleef & Arpels was in danger of being forcibly taken over by the Nazi occupiers or by the collaborationist Vichy government. On August 16th, 1940, Paul de Léséleuc agreed to purchase 54% of the company’s shares and became General Manager. The next step in the plan required Renée Puissant—as well as Julien, Charles and Louis Arpels—to resign from their positions. Since the company was now officially owned by a Catholic, it was no longer subject to confiscation. The Vichy government, suspecting that the new company management secretly maintained ties to the Van Cleef and Arpels families, appointed additional managers to the company. Critically, de Léséleuc continued to preside over the Board of Directors until October 1944 after the Liberation when the Arpels family returned from the United States and resumed control of the company. The plan succeeded in keeping the firm largely intact throughout the war and returning it to its rightful owners.

Monsieur de Léséleuc is described by surviving family members as a serious businessman who pursued his leisure interests with a passion. He loved cars, motorcycles and, especially, horse racing. The proprietor of famed Deauville racing stable the Haras du Logis de Saint-Germain, he was an active participant in the racing world well into his eighties. The beauty of the de Léséleuc family’s jewelry collection suggests that he was also a man of great taste and refinement.

Several of the jewels were acquisitions of Paul de Léséleuc’s formidable mother-in-law, Marie-Gabrielle Baudry-Vogt. The Baudry family owned the Alsatian textile company Baudry et Cie. After the death of her husband Charles Louis Baudry in 1940, Marie-Gabrielle became a keen and successful stock market investor, using some of the proceeds from her trades  to purchase dazzling jewelry for herself.

The impressive Van Cleef & Arpels diamond bracelet and charming diamond flower clip-brooch, which most likely date to the post-war years, attest to the family’s continuing good relationship with Van Cleef & Arpels, the company M. de Léséleuc helped to preserve. The 1940s Mauboussin diamond necklace also has a Van Cleef & Arpels connection. It bears the workshop mark of René Sim Lacaze who was a designer for Van Cleef & Arpels from 1923 until 1940 when the Nazi occupation forced the Paris workshop to close. Lacaze was a close associate of Renée Puissant, and together they created some of the house’s most iconic designs including the Mystery Setting, the Ludo bracelet, the Passe-Partout and the Zip necklace. Lacaze joined Mauboussin during the war and continued to design for the company through the 1950s. The collection is completed by three striking brooches by Cartier including two set with sumptuous cabochon sapphires and one featuring an imposing yellow diamond.  Sotheby’s is pleased to be able to present such a distinguished and historic collection.

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