An insatiable appetite for expensive things may have contributed to her losing her head during the French Revolution, but if one were to tally up the stratospheric prices Marie Antoinette’s treasures command when they occasionally surface at auction, it would seem the fallen queen is more than getting her posthumous karmic redemption.
A few cases in point? In 2018, her pearl pendant sold at Sotheby’s for $36 million, more than triple what was, until then, the world’s most valuable sea-born gem: Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary La Peregrina. Last year, a pair of her bracelets studded with 112 diamonds—part of the jewels the queen stashed in wooden crates and sent to Austrian ambassador Count Mercy-Argenteau for safekeeping during her imprisonment—sold at Christie’s Geneva for $8.2 million, more than double its high estimate. And it’s not just the contents of her jewelry box that shatter records. In 2020, someone paid $50,000 for just one of her silk slippers.
Marie Antoinette had excellent taste in furniture too, naturally, and a few rare pieces are set to hit the auction block next week. Included in the Exceptional Sale at Christie’s Paris on November 22 will be exquisite representations of two distinct periods of design. First, a fine example of le goût chinois in the form of a commode by Pierre Macret, crafted circa 1770 with tôle-dorée doors curved like rolling waves and depicting a pastoral scene. Marie Antoinette had a pair installed at Château de Compiègne—the other is currently at Versailles.
By the late 1780s, the queen had moved on from le goût chinois to the pseudo-classical Etruscan style, and proceeded to remodel her apartments at Versailles in this manner. Georges Jacob was commissioned with crafting a suite of furniture, which included a pastel blue, cream-painted armchair that was delivered in 1788. Sadly, her majesty would only be able to luxuriate in her new imitation Etruscan environs for five years—she was sent to the guillotine in 1793.
The Macret commode has an estimate of €800,000-1,200,000, while the Jacobs fauteuil has a high estimate of €200,000. But if auction history is to serve as our guide, the Marie Antoinette stamp will likely prove record-breaking once more.
Leena Kim is an associate editor at Town & Country, where she writes about travel, weddings, arts, and culture.