A Notable Bicorne Hat of Napoleon Bonaparte Anticipated to Garner Over $650,000 at French Auction

by Ryan Lee
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Napoleon's bicorne hat auction

A notable bicorne hat, part of the iconic attire of Napoleon Bonaparte during his reign and military campaigns in 19th-century France, is expected to command a price exceeding 600,000 euros (about $650,000) at a forthcoming auction in France this Sunday.

The auction features a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia belonging to the late industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez, including historically significant items such as a silver plate seized from Napoleon’s carriage post his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and a wooden vanity case containing his personal items like razors, a silver toothbrush, and scissors.

This particular faded black felt hat, the centerpiece of the auction, is estimated to be worth between 600,000 and 800,000 euros ($650,000 to $870,000).

Distinguished from his contemporaries, who wore their hats with the wings aligned from front to back, Napoleon famously donned his bicorne sideways, with the ends pointing over his shoulders. This style, referred to as “en bataille” (in battle) in French, made him easily recognizable to his troops during combat.

Jean-Pierre Osenat, the leader of the Osenat auction house, noted, “For aficionados of Napoleonic relics, owning a hat is considered the ultimate achievement. There are approximately 20 authentic hats remaining, with about 15 in museums and only 4 or 5 in private collections.”

The hat being auctioned was initially acquired by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon who fought alongside him in numerous battles, including Waterloo. Following various changes in ownership, the hat was eventually obtained by Noisiez, who spent over fifty years amassing his extensive collection of Napoleonic artifacts, arms, and coins until his demise in 2022.

A noteworthy item in the collection is a silver plate, engraved with details of its capture from Napoleon’s carriage at Waterloo, valued between 20,000 and 30,000 euros ($22,000 to $32,500). Auctioneers have disclosed that this plate was part of a significant loot of 180 kilograms (400 pounds) of silverware divided among victorious soldiers.

Included in the auction is Napoleon’s mahogany vanity case, adorned with his imperial coat of arms, and containing essentials for his personal grooming such as a mirror, combs, tweezers, a shaving brush, and more. This case is expected to sell for between 40,000 and 60,000 euros ($43,500 to $65,000).

Reported by John Leicester for Big Big News from Le Pecq, France.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Napoleon memorabilia auction

What is the estimated value of Napoleon’s bicorne hat at the auction?

The estimated value of Napoleon’s bicorne hat at the auction is between 600,000 and 800,000 euros, equivalent to approximately $650,000 to $870,000.

How did Napoleon wear his bicorne hat differently from other officers?

Napoleon wore his bicorne hat with the ends pointing towards his shoulders, a style known as “en bataille.” In contrast, other officers typically wore their hats with the wings facing from front to back. This unique style made it easier for his troops to identify him on the battlefield.

Who was the previous owner of the hat being auctioned?

The hat being auctioned was initially recovered by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster who served under Napoleon and fought alongside him in several battles, including Waterloo. It passed through various owners before being acquired by the late industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez.

What other significant items are included in the auction?

The auction includes a silver plate looted from Napoleon’s carriage after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, as well as a wooden vanity case containing personal grooming items belonging to Napoleon.

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