PARIS — A faded and cracked felt bicorn hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction of the French emperor’s belongings on Sunday.
Yes, 2.1 million dollars.
The characteristic wide black hat, one of the few that still exists and that Napoleon wore when ruled France in the 19th century and waged war in Europe—was initially valued between 600,000 and 800,000 euros (between $650,000 and $870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s Fontainebleau auction of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.
But the bids quickly rose higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, named the winner.
”We are at 1.5 million (euros) for Napoleon’s hat… for this important symbol of the napoleonic era” he said, as applause resounded in the auction room. The buyer, whose identity has not been revealed, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the total cost to 1.9 million euros ( 2.1 million dollars).
While other officers customarily wore their bicorn hats with the brims facing back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style, known as “en bataille” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.
The hat for sale was first recovered by Colonel Pierre Baillon, Napoleon’s quartermaster, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.
The businessman spent more than half a century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.
The sale occurred days before the release of Ridley Scott. movie ”Napoleon” with Joaquin Phoenix, which is reviving interest in the controversial French ruler.