Napoleon’s Iconic Hat Fetches Record $2.1 Million at Auction

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Napoleon Bonaparte's famous bicorne hat sold at auction

In a remarkable turn of events, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s renowned black hats has garnered an astonishing €1.932 million (approximately $2.1 million) at an auction in France. This extraordinary sale has set a new record for Napoleon’s iconic two-cornered military dress hats. Historically, the French emperor was known to possess around 120 variations of this distinctive bicorn headpiece, making this particular auction even more noteworthy.

The prestigious Osenat auction house, situated in Fontainebleau, had the privilege of selling this exceptional piece of history. Remarkably, only a mere 16 of these hats are known to exist today, with the majority residing in museums worldwide due to their immense historical significance. The hat in question was previously part of the esteemed collection belonging to French industrialist Jean Louis Noisiez, which was made available for auction on a recent Sunday.

This significant artifact is crafted from luxurious black beaver felt and features an intricate tricolor cockade, a military rosette that adds to its historical allure. According to the listing on Osenat’s online platform, this hat, which surpassed its original estimated value by more than double, was meticulously created by a furrier at the emperor’s palace.

Historical accounts suggest that Napoleon Bonaparte donned this specific hat during the zenith of his reign. In 1815, upon his return to France from his exile in Elba, he adorned the cockade on his hat, a symbolic act that signified his presence and authority. Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat, in anticipation of the sale, emphasized the iconic status of this headpiece, stating that Napoleon always wore the hat with the corners precisely aligned with his shoulders—an unconventional style compared to the common practice of wearing it with the corners front to back during that era.

Osenat further elaborated on the hat’s significance by explaining, “When they see it in the battlefields, they knew Napoleon was there, and when he’s in private, he always had it on his head or he had it in his hand or sometimes he threw it on the ground. That was the image, the symbol of the emperor.”

Interestingly, in 2018, another version of Napoleon’s hat fetched a substantial sum, selling for over $400,000 at an auction in Lyon, France. The De Baecque auction house, responsible for that sale, revealed that Napoleon maintained a total of 12 hats in service, each with a three-year lifespan.

Napoleon Bonaparte, a central figure in French history, declared himself emperor of France in 1804. His reign left an indelible mark on the country as a formidable military leader and ruler, leading France in wars against several European powers of the time. However, his reign came to a decisive end with his defeat by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Following this defeat, he abdicated for the second time and was exiled to the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he ultimately passed away in 1821.

The auction also featured other remarkable items from Napoleon’s personal history, including his vanity set, complete with a razor and toothbrush, and a handkerchief he used during his time on St. Helena while he was unwell.

This momentous sale coincides with the release of Ridley Scott’s epic movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the diminutive emperor, which has recently graced the silver screen.

The sale of Napoleon’s iconic hat for a staggering $2.1 million not only signifies the enduring fascination with the legendary emperor but also serves as a poignant reminder of his enduring legacy in history.

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