A distinctive bicorne hat once owned by the formidable French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte has been auctioned in Paris for an astonishing $2.1 million or €1.9 million.
The black beaver felt hat, an emblematic part of Napoleon’s attire during his reign in the 19th century, surpassed its estimated value of €600,000 to €800,000 (£525,850-£701,131).
The identity of the hat’s new owner remains undisclosed, adding a layer of mystery to the acquisition of this historical artifact.
Historians emphasize the significance of the hat within Napoleon’s personal brand, as wearing it sideways on the battlefield became an iconic symbol, making the emperor instantly recognizable.
Napoleon, known for his strategic acumen, possessed approximately 120 bicorne hats over the years, but only around 20 are believed to exist today, many residing in private collections.
The hat, crafted from black beaver felt, is part of a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia assembled by an industrialist who passed away last year.
Auctioneers consider this hat a true holy grail for specialists and enthusiasts alike. Napoleon wore the hat uniquely, with the corns parallel to his shoulders, a style termed “en bataille,” distinguishing him from most of his officers who wore their hats perpendicular to the shoulders.
Jean Pierre Osenat, the auctioneer from Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, emphasized the hat’s universal recognition, stating: “People recognized this hat everywhere. When they saw it on the battlefields, they knew Napoleon was there. And when in private, he always had it on his head or he had it in his hand, and sometimes he threw it on the ground. That was the image – the symbol of the emperor.”
The provenance of the hat is impeccable, having remained in the family of Napoleon’s palace quartermaster throughout the 19th century. The auction also features other notable items, including a silver plate looted from Napoleon’s carriage after his 1815 defeat at Waterloo and a wooden vanity case owned by Napoleon, complete with razors, a silver toothbrush, scissors, and other personal belongings.
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