PARIS – A faded and cracked felt double-horned hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte was sold for $2.1 million Sunday at an auction of the French emperor’s belongings.
Yes, $2.1 million.
The signature broad black hat, one of the few hats worn by Napoleon while ruling 19th-century France and waging war in Europe, was originally valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-$870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction at Fontainebleau of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.
However, bidding soared until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, named the winner.
“For Napoleon’s hat… We have 1.5 million euros for this important symbol of the Napoleonic era,” he said, as applause was heard in the auction hall. The unidentified buyer must pay 28.8% of commissions, bringing the total cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million), according to Osenat.
While other officers traditionally wore their double-horned hats with the wings facing forward and back, Napoleon wore his with the tips facing his shoulders. This style, known as “en bataille” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to identify their leaders in battle.
According to the auctioneers, the hat offered for sale was first obtained by Napoleon’s quartermaster, Colonel Pierre Baillon. The hat then passed through many hands until industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.
The entrepreneur spent more than half a century assembling his collection of Napoleonic-era memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.
The sale comes days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix, which has reignited interest in the controversial French ruler.