John Soane created this 'mourning' ring in memory of the Emperor Napoleon (using a pre-existing ring) when he was given a lock of the Emperor's hair around 1822, shortly after Napoleon's death.

The lock was a gift from Elizabeth ('Betsy') Balcombe, the daughter of an official on St Helena who became a pet of the Emperor as a child on the island. The ring illuminates Soane's own fascination with Napoleon and his personal feelings about the Emperor's death. Soane created a mini shrine to Napolean in the arrangement of works of art in his Breakfast Room. He valued he ring so highly that he left it as an heirloom to his family. The museum is delighted to recover this item - one of only three significant items which left the the collection on Soane's death.


Private collection; by descent; Christie's, 2009; private collection. The work has been vetted by the Art Loss Register.

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