A Superb French Caen Limestone Carving in the Form of a Hooped Crown c.1840-60

Origin: French
Period: 2nd Empire
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1840-60
Height: 6.5”
Width: 9.75”
Diameter: 8”

The unusual and well-carved mid-nineteenth century Caen limestone stone carving in the form of a regal hooped crown, having an unusual inverted dipping half arch to the globe, possibly lacking the monde finial lost in antiquity, the circlet with a fleur-de-lys motif band to a lower stepped band, the whole surviving in weathered condition from 2nd Empire period France.

The condition of the whole is mostly pleasing with a good even spread of weathering commensurate with exposure to the elements giving her an evocative all round character and colour. It is possible that the crown had at some stage, the monde (finial) to the top of the hoop, also with some nibbled losses to the fleur-de-lys extremities. The piece has been given an attractive sliced stone base at a later stage.

The design of this crown is certainly unusual, and not certainly not typically British in appearance, with the angular dipping half arch, which does however have some similarities to both that of the original State Crown of George I here in England, and to also that of the Crown of Dauphin Louis Antoine in France, which was worn at the coronation of Charles X in 1825. The overall style of the crown, with the fleur-de-lys carving and the material used, both point to this piece being of French origin. It is fairly likely that it was once part of a larger composition.

The crown has always been an emblem of power and legitimacy and a symbol of transcendent authority upon monarchs and rulers throughout history. Today, only the British Monarchy and Tongan Monarchy continue this tradition as the only remaining anointed and crowned monarchs, though many monarchies retain a crown as a national symbol in heraldry. The French Crown Jewels were sold in 1885 on the orders of the Third French Republic, with their precious stones replaced by glass, which were held on to for historic reasons and displayed by the Louvre.

Dating back as far as the 11th century, some of the greatest English historic buildings were built with French stone. Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Tower of London were all built from Caen limestone, which was brought over by WiIliam the Conqueror. Prior to that, Caen limestone was first used as a building stone by the Romans in the 1st century, then, around a thousand years later, the quarry produced the limestone that was shipped to England following the Norman Conquest in 1066. It was the preferred building stone of the Normans and was often used ahead of the local British stone.

A highly decorative and well-carved piece in a beautiful material of an iconic object.