Lot 132. A Belle Epoque Colombian emerald and diamond brooch, circa 1910. Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 400,000. Price realised USD 471,000. © Christie's Image Ltd 2019.
Crescent-shaped emerald, old and marquise-cut diamonds, platinum, 3 ¾ ins., circa 1910
AGL, 2019, report no. 1100336: Colombia, insignificant clarity enhancement, traditional type
Provenance: Anita Delgado (1890-1962)
Ajit Singh (1908-1982), by descent
Christie's, London, 12 December 2007, lot 201.
Literature: Hue-Williams and Sancroft-Baker 2016, p. 41.
Exhibited: Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p. 124, no. 71
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 162, no. 125
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 294, no. 219
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 308, no. 211
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 323, no. 215
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 182, no. 124.
Anita Delgado Briones (1890-1962) Spanish dancer, princess of Kapurthala, c. 1920. PVDE / Bridgeman Images.
Anita Delgado (1890-1962) was born in Malaga to a modest family of restaurateurs. The strikingly beautiful Anita took to the Madrid stage as a dancer in her late teens. During a performance, she captured the heart of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, a charismatic Indian prince visiting Spain to attend the marriage of King Alfonso XIII to Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg. Fiercely protective at first, the Delgado family eventually allowed the prince to meet their daughter. Preserving Anita’s reputation, the Maharaja proposed to the young dancer and carried her off to Paris, where she underwent months of training, emerging as a true Parisienne and Maharani of Kapurthala.
As Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala was among one of the first Indian princes to patronize European jewelers, often supplying them with precious stones from his own treasury to be set in the latest western style, the young Anita also developed a passion for jewelry. A jewel that was of particular importance to the Maharani was a Belle Époque emerald and diamond brooch. This brooch, Lot 132, was designed to highlight an extraordinary crescent-shaped emerald. This magnificent stone originally adorned the Maharaja’s most prized elephant, until Anita admired it and it was given to her on her nineteenth birthday as an award for learning Urdu. Anita often wore this brooch as a forehead ornament at official events and when sitting for formal portraits.
Popularly known as the Spanish Rani, on her marriage Anita took the name Prem Kaur, ‘Love of a prince.’ Over time, the romantic story of her marriage, her candid charm and her great beauty won Anita international fame and she was often photographed and featured in social columns and magazine covers.
Anita Delgado was also a strong philanthropic character, who played a particularly important role in caring for the many Punjabi troops who fought on European fields in World War I. Her marriage to the Maharaja ended after eighteen years in 1925, and with a generous financial settlement she returned to Europe. Her legendary jewels were passed to her only son, Ajit Singh (1908-1982).