A collection of rare jewellery and silver belonging to the daughter of renowned French painter Paul Cesar Helleu will be auctioned by Bonhams in March. The sale will be of particular interest to a variety of investors and collectors - not only those drawn to art and jewellery.
Helleu was a model for the central character of Elstir in Marcel Proust's remarkable work 'In Search of Lost Time' - also known as 'Remembrance of Things Past'. Helleu primarily built a reputation portraying some of the most celebrated women of the time, including Consuelo Vanderbilt - the Duchess of Malborough.
In appreciation for his work, the Duchess gifted an 18 carat gold cigarette case and an early 20th Century French pocket watch to the artist. Both feature in the Bonhams sale, estimated at £1,000-1,200 and $600-800 respectively, making them a very affordable investment for a collector.
These items, along with others in the auction, were passed to Helleu's daughter Paulette. Born in 1904, she was considered one of the few living links to the world of Proust's novel, known as the Belle Époque. She socialised with many leading lights in the artistic and cultural world of the time, including Singer Sargent, Manet, Boldini and Monet.
Paulette sadly died in 2009 at the grand age of 104, leaving behind many unique relics of the period Proust so vividly described in his book. Bonhams have a total of 50 items which belonged to Paulette and her famous father, available for reasonable prices.
A highlight is a stunning Art Deco diamond brooch, which is estimated to sell for £8,000-10,000, while a unique Cartier multi gem parrot brooch is likely to bring £6,000-8,000. In addition, the collection includes a group of silver plates by Odiot of Paris, with an estimate of £3,000-5,000.
This auction would be a fine way of investing in a very unique period of time, richly documented by Proust, which is now nearly lost to history. These items not only sustain that link with the past, but would be a great entry-level investment for anyone interested in fine jewellery.
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