Pourquoi la perle de Marie Antoinette est exceptionnelle ? Entretien avec Olivier Ségura

perle de Marie-Antoinette

 Les bijoux de Marie-Antoinette et de la famille des Bourbon Parme sont en vente chez Sotheby’s. Cette vente a déjà fait couler beaucoup d’encre, au propre comme au figuré. J’ai été fasciné par la perle naturelle en pendentif poire avec petit noeud en diamants, et gros solitaire qui se portait seule ou accrochée au magnifique collier de 300 perles naturelles et j’ai voulu en savoir plus sur cette pièce.

J’ai bien sûr contacté Sotheby’s qui m’a indiqué l’histoire de ce bijou et de ceux des Bourbons Parme : Madame Campan, la femme de chambre de Marie-Antoinette qui emballe les bijoux de la reine pendant la nuit. Le Comte Mercy Argentau, ambassadeur d’Autriche qui les transporte en secret et les remet à L’empereur père de Marie-Antoinette lequel les donne à Madame Royale, Marie-Thérèse de France, fille de Marie-Antoinette, seule rescapée de la révolution française. Sans descendant, celle-ci les transmet à la Duchesse de Parme, Louise de France, sa nièce.

La provenance de cette collection que Sotheby’s met en vente est bien acertainée et le romanesque de son histoire est déjà exceptionnel.

Je voulais quand même en savoir plus et j’ai interrogé Olivier Ségura, Directeur scientifique de l’Ecole des Arts Joailliers qui mène actuellement une thèse sur les techniques d’analyse des perles fines.

Olivier Segura

Olivier Ségura

« La dimension de cette perle est extraordinaire car une perle grossit de 1mm par an sur toute son enveloppe. Un pêcheur de Baraïn me disait que pour constituer un collier de 45 cm de long avec des perles parfaitement ronde, de la même couleur, entourant une perle centrale de 8 mm il faut 10 à 15 ans. Vous imaginez le temps qu’il a fallu pour cette perle large de 18 mm ! Les célèbres perles de Baroda étaient de 13-14 mm. En plus c’est une poire parfaite ce qui est également très rare. La perle est formée dans l’huitre perlière, qui vieillit et meurt. Le sac perlier est une cellule vivante qui entoure la perle et qui vieillit comme tout être vivant. Comme une « peau » il peut se rider, avoir des pores plus gros,… tous ces changements affectent directement la perle sur laquelle on peut alors observer des : craquelures, piqûres,…. Il peut y avoir des défauts dus à un changement de minéralisation de l’eau et qui provoquent des déformations. La perle lisse, bien rondie, est une rareté. D’ailleurs les perles de l’époque étaient travaillées par « pelage », un ponçage-polissage pour enlever les défauts de rotondité.

L’état de conservation de la perle de Marie-Antoinette est parfait mais la perle se conserve bien. C’est dû à la particularité de sa structure : la perle est constituée à la fois de minéral et d’organique.

La perle est minérale ET organique

La partie minérale (90 à 92 %) est un carbonate de calcium (CaCO3), de l’Aragonite, qui est stable (c’est également le constituant du marbre).

composition chimique de la perle
Carbonate de Calcium CaCO3, Aragonite

La partie organique (4-5 %) est de la Conchyoline qui est constituée de protéines. Pour le reste il y a de l’eau. Si les perles restent bien hydratées, elles se conservent dans les meilleures conditions. C’est pour cela que l’on dit qu’il faut porter ses perles pour qu’elles soient belles : les matières organiques absorbent l’eau de la peau et de l’air. C’est incroyable qu’un animal aussi primitif que l’huitre produise quelque chose d’aussi complexe que la perle…

La perle est à la base de toute civilisation

La perle est à la base de toute la civilisation. En moins 7000 avant Jésus-Christ  les chasseurs se sont stabilisés dans le Golfe car les huitres les nourrissaient, ils fabriquaient des hameçons très résistants avec la nacre. Les nobles se faisaient enterrés avec des perles semi-percées sur l’arc de cupidon de la bouche, les femmes portaient au même endroit des perles complètement percées. On a retrouvé en -5000 avant JC des guerriers avec de petites boites contenant des perles. Les fouilles d’Oumm al Qaïwaïn par la mission archéologique française aux Émirats Arabes Unis, ont mises à jour des perles dans un contexte funéraires que la datation au carbone 14 a située à -5500 av J-C.

perles du Paléolitique

A l’époque qui nous intéresse, il y avait peu d’origines possibles : le Golfe persique, l’Inde ou la mer des Caraïbes au nord du Panama. Les routes commerciales du Portugal étaient ouvertes depuis 1500-1550. Christophe Collomb avait entrepris son 2e voyage essentiellement pour retrouver des perles car les indiens en étaient couverts sur l’île d’Espagnola (1e ville implantée en Amérique puis 1er port d’esclaves).

huitres perlières

Pinctada mazatlanica

L’ADN des perles

Cette perle vient probablement d’une Pinctada Maxima ou Pinctada mazatlanica (par homologie avec La Pérégrina). Aujourd’hui on pourrait déterminer son ADN. Le SSEF, L’Institut gemmologique Suisse, a développé un programme de recherche qui permet de déterminer le génome des perles. Le problème d’une perle historique est qu’il n’y a pas de matériel génétique auquel le comparer.

ADN

C’est pourquoi on mène des recherches à partir des tableaux anciens. C’est délicat, car les perles peintes sur les tableaux européens sont souvent surdimensionnées, comme cela se faisait à l’époque. Alors que les représentations venant d’Inde devaient être d’une grande exactitude et les Moghol étaient très friands de très grosses perles.

Au-delà de sa taille exceptionnelle dont nous avons déjà parlé (poire de 26 mm x 18 mm), la perle de Marie-Antoinette montre un bel orient (c’est-à-dire la réflexion de la lumière sur la perle) et sa couleur ajoute encore à sa splendeur ! ».

Marie-Antoinette

 Marie-Antoinette par Vigée-Lebrun

Merci à Olivier Ségura, grâce à vous j’ai bien compris que peu importe le prix qu’atteindra cette perle chez Sotheby’s (estimation entre 888.380 euros et 1,78 millions d’euros), cette perle est plus qu’un morceau d’histoire lié à une reine : c’est un joyau de l’histoire de l’humanité.

la perle de Marie-Antoinette chez Sotheby's

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