Lot 146. A rare Continental Renaissance gold, enamel and diamond-set násfa, circa 1626, probably Hungarian. Estimate $70,000 - $100,000. Price Realized $75,000 . Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2016.
The elaborate gold násfa set with a princely crown above a pair of gem-set wings, with engraved white and black enamel feathers, the feathers on the reverse in black enamel; a jeweled cross and anchor with two white enameled doves above, the anchor entwined with a red, green and black enameled serpent, and two red enameled flowers; below two jeweled and white enamel ringed hands clasping a heart of two parts, the obverse overlaid with netting in white, red and green enamel, the reverse of the heart in red enamel and overlaid with gold netting; below the heart, a skull in white enamel holding a gold key; the whole attached to a pounced gold foliate openwork frame with white, green and black enamel accents, and suspending three gem-set gold drops and a circular gem-set ring above, the frame applied with later back plate; 4 ¼ in. (8.4 cm.) high; 120 gr. gross weight
Provenance: Count Antal Zichy (1826-1898)
Graf von Palffy, former Austrian Ambassador to Rome
With Arnold Seligmann, Paris, 13 March 1923 (45,000 francs)
Charles D. Bowles (1864-1924), of the Columbia River Shipbuilding Company, Portland, Oregon
Thence by descent to the present owner
Literature: Catalogue of the Exhibition of Hungarian Historical Goldsmith’s Works, Hungarian National Exhibition, 1884, illus. no. 13
István Simonyi, “Questions and Answers: An Attempt at Defining the So-Called Bethlen-Násfa,” Ars Decorativa 24, 2006, pp. 21-37, illus. pp. 32 and 34
Exhibited: Exhibition of Hungarian Historical Goldsmith’s Works, 1884, Hungarian National Exhibition, Budapest, no. 13
Antiques Roadshow, 18 August 2012
Note: The Bethlen Násfa
In the 16th and 17th násfa, or jeweled pendants, were among the most important jewels worn by the aristocracy. Typically given as wedding gifts, they were worn hanging from a chain, on the side of a high fur hat or used as a diadem. By tradition a gold násfa was worn by Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania (1580-1629), at his 1626 marriage to Catherine of Brandenburg (d. 1644). Silver-gilt násfas were worn by their six pages. A matching gold násfa in the Dresden’s Green Vaults (Inv. No. VIII 288), suggests however, that two gold pendants were fashioned for the wedding, to be worn by the bride and groom for their wedding in Kassa.
The pair of gold pendants relate very closely to one another in decoration and scale. The cross, anchor and heart are symbols of faith, hope and love, and the bejwelled hands holding a heart were popular motif of wedding jewels of the late 16th and early 17th century. However, the Dresden násfa features white enamel typical of the bride; the present lot incorporates black enamel, appropriate for the groom.
Following the death of Prince Gábor Bethlen in 1629, Catherine of Brandenberg returned to Germany, where she married Francis Charles, Duke of Saxon-Lauenberg, in 1639 and died in 1644. Catherine presumably returned to Germany with the pendant, and its subsequent history prior entering the collection of Augustus the Strong is unknown. First inventoried in 1706, the násfa has remained in the Green Vaults Collection to the present day.
The present pendant, the násfa associated with Prince Gábor, was exhibited in 1884 at an exhibition of Historical Goldsmiths' work in Budapest along with four related silver-gilt examples. The gold násfa was loaned by Count Antal Zichy (1826-1898), a writer, politician, member of parliament, and a member of the Hungarian Academy of Science. By 1923, the pendant had been acquired from Graff von Palffy, a former Austrian Ambassador in Rome, by the Parisian dealer Arnold Seligmann who sold it to an American in whose family it has remained.
(See: Zoltan Szilárdfy, “The Wedding násfas of Gabor Bethlen”, Confessio 3, no. 2, 1980, pp. 35-39 for an discussion of the násfa’s iconography; see István Simonyi, “Questions and Answers: An Attempt at Defining the So-Called Bethlen-Násfa”, Ars Decorativa 24, 2006, pp. 21-37 for a study of the group of násfas)
Christie's. IMPORTANT SILVER AND OBJECTS OF VERTU, 21 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza