This is a world record for a Napoleon I hat. One of the emperor’s famous black bicorns was sold at auction this Sunday in Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne) for the price of… 1.932 million euros (with fees). The identity or nationality of the buyer has not been communicated. The sale attracted “collectors from all over the world” and caused great excitement, according to the Osenat auction house.
The hat sold on Sunday was presented to the public beforehand and was valued at between 600,000 and 800,000 euros. It was priced at 500,000 euros and therefore sold almost four times as much, during the auctions which took place a few days before the release of the film by Ridley Scott dedicated to Napoleonwith Joaquin Phoenix in the title role.
According to the Osenat house, this hat was worn by Napoleon “around the middle of the Empire”, according to a Belgian author who listed the emperor’s headgear in 2007, Yves Moerman. In around fifteen years, Napoleon would have used around 120 of them, which allows us to see some of them for sale at auction from time to time.
The previous record was from 2014
The previous record was 1.884 million euros in 2014, also by the Osenat house in Fontainebleau. Acquired by a South Korean businessman, it came from the collection of the princely family of Monaco. In 2018, a hat which, according to De Baecque et Associés, had been worn during the Battle of Waterloo, went for 350,000 euros in Lyon.
The hat sold this Sunday is part of the collection of Jean-Louis Noisiez, founder of the cleaning and other business services group GSF, who died in 2022. The bicorne was made by Pierre-Quentin-Joseph Baillon, quartermaster to the Emperor from 1806. According to experts, Napoleon added his blue, white and red cockade while he was in the Mediterranean, returning from the island of Elba on March 1, 1815. The hat had remained in his family until the end of the 19th century, before being resold to various collectors. It was exhibited at the Empéri museum in Salon-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) from 1967 to 2002.