The Popes 1805 Triple Tiara Miniature, also known as the Napoleon Tiara, holds a fascinating history. Designed and crafted by Henri Auguste and Marie-Étienne Nitot of the House of Chaumet in Paris, it follows the traditional papal tiara design. The tiara's central structure is adorned with three crowns made of gold, each featuring a large hoop embellished with intricate flower work of wrought leaves. These floral motifs are further enriched with a stunning array of precious gemstones including rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and brilliants, complemented by a set of carefully chosen pearls.
In total, the tiara boasts an impressive display of luxury, comprising 3,345 precious stones and 2,990 pearls. The meticulous craftsmanship and exquisite materials used in its creation resulted in a tiara of exceptional beauty and opulence. However, it is worth noting that the tiara was not without a deeper historical significance.
The tiara's significance lies in its connection to the tumultuous relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the papacy. Within the central hoop of each crown, bas-reliefs celebrate significant moments in the relationship between Napoleon and the Catholic Church. These include the restoration of religious worship through the repeal of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the signing of the Concordat of 1801, and Napoleon's own coronation.
While the tiara may have been presented as a gift to the Pope during Napoleon's coronation, it carried a thinly veiled insult. The tiara was intentionally oversized, weighing a staggering 18 pounds (8.2 kg) and being too small to comfortably fit on a human head. This aspect, along with the history of some of the gemstones and decorations being re-purposed from earlier tiaras that were looted during the French invasion of Rome in 1798, added to the underlying symbolism of disrespect.
Despite its mixed reception, the Pope graciously acknowledged the gift by thanking Emperor Napoleon in a letter dated June 23, 1805. He expressed his intention to utilise the tiara during the papal mass commemorating the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
The Popes 1805 Triple Tiara Miniature, with its intricate craftsmanship, historical significance, and lavish adornments, serves as a tangible representation of the complex relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the papacy.
This miniature recreation stands proudly and makes a perfect display piece.