Saturday, February 5, 2022

Bizarre story of a jewel-encrusted crystal sphinx that allegedly belonged to Napoleon and has been valued at $150m+

Ben Davis for Artnet:

It is a truly, truly immense bit of art news: the auction of an ultra-rare, jewel-encrusted crystal sphinx once belonging to Napoleon himself. The top estimate? A jaw-dropping $250 million.

Why then, you ask, haven’t you heard of this landmark event? Perhaps because ... the existence of a bejeweled “Talisman of Napoleon” was heretofore unknown to art historians


The modern story of the Napoleon Talisman, as told in a video on the official Talisman site, begins in 1936, when a Dutch trench digger found it. He brought it with him to the U.S. in fleeing World War II, passed it to his son, who in turn put it on eBay, ultimately trading it for a set of Ping golf clubs to its current owner...“a Mensa member and one of the world’s leading authorities on antique golf memorabilia.”

Because of his acute intelligence, “[the current owner] realized the Talisman had tarot coding 45 minutes into his initial examination.” He then embarked upon a six-year mission to unlock the symbols coded into the patterns of gems in the bibelot, 114 in all.