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Detail from the portrait of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain
A master

Jean-Baptiste-Claude

Odiot

Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot (1763–1850) was a French smith from a dynasty of goldsmiths and silversmiths. Beginning in 1785, Odiot led the family company: he supplied not only Emperor Napoleon, but also all the important courts of Europe, including the court of Baden.

What was Odiot's career like?

In France, the "Maison Odiot," the goldsmiths and silversmiths of the Odiot family, had long been known for their ornate work. Odiot learned the art of filigree from his grandfather Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard and his father Jean-Claude, and soon brought it to even greater heights of perfection. In 1785, he took over the family company, which was founded in 1690. Through his outstanding work and the many contacts of the Bonaparte family, he achieved great fame in France. In 1808, after more than 20 years in business, he was among the 500 most important people in Paris.

Suppenterrine, Silber, von Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, Paris, 1823, badisches Hofsilber in Schloss Mannheim; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Salt cellar, by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, Paris, 1823, royal silver of the House of Baden in Mannheim Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The silver vessels by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot were decorated with Baden's coat of arms.

Portrait of Emperor Napoleon I with his coronation insignia. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Napoleon had himself portrayed as emperor with his insignia.

What was Odiot's most important work?

Odiot was commissioned with creating the coronation sword for Emperor Napoleon and modernizing the scepter of Charles the Great for the coronation ceremony. Benjamin Constant, a contemporary of Napoleon, mentioned Odiot's work in his descriptions of the self-coronation of the emperor: "The imperial scepter, a work by the jeweler Odiot, was made of silver and surrounded by a golden line, crowned with a globe on which was depicted Charles the Great, sitting on a throne." Later, Odiot delivered the silver decorations for the magnificent cradle of the newborn heir to the throne, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte.

Portrait of Grand Duke Ludwig von Baden from 1820. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Grand Duke Ludwig had silverware delivered from France.

Why did the court of Baden buy from Odiot?

Ludwig I von Baden was often sent on diplomatic missions by his father. In 1802, he traveled to the Czar's court in Moscow and then to Paris, to negotiate with Napoleon Bonaparte. On his travels, Ludwig certainly saw products by Odiot that had been delivered to courts throughout Europe. His reputation had spread far beyond the national borders of France. After Ludwig became the Grand Duke of Baden in 1818, he purchased his royal silver from Odiot.

Detail from the portrait of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Silverwork and goldwork by Odiot.

What happened to Odiot and his company next?

Although Odiot had carried out so many commissions for Napoleon Bonaparte and his family, he was able to continue work unhindered after Napoleon's downfall. In 1827, he handed down the management of the family company to his son, Charles-Nicolas Odiot (1789–1868). He concentrated on collection paintings, works of art, and antiques. In 1835, Odiot donated 30 of his pieces to museums in commemoration of his skill and as examples for his successors. When he died at the age of 87, he was one of the richest men in France.