In a surprising turn of events, an unidentified buyer recently acquired a bicorne hat from Napoleon Bonaparte’s collection for a staggering $2.1 million. The hat, made of cracked black beaver felt, was sold by the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, surpassing its estimated value of 800,000 euros.
Napoleon’s obsession with bicorne hats is well-known, and he is often recognized by the distinctive silhouette created by this headwear. Throughout his lifetime, he amassed an estimated 120 bicorne hats, making him one of the few historical figures instantly identifiable by his choice of headpiece.
The hat sold at the auction was worn by Napoleon around 1810, during his quest for French dominance over continental Europe. It is one of only about 20 hats that remain from his collection. Before ending up at the auction house, the hat had passed through various hands. It was initially recovered by Napoleon’s quartermaster, Col. Pierre Baillon, who kept it in his family until the late 19th century. Since then, it has been acquired by antique collectors and was even displayed at a museum before becoming the possession of Jean-Louis Noisiez, a French businessman who passed away last year.
Jean-Pierre Osenat, the auctioneer, described the hat as the pièce de résistance of the collection, symbolizing the entire history of the Napoleonic era that revolutionized France and left a lasting impact on the world.
Napoleon’s legacy is a subject of great debate and controversy. While some hail him as a military genius and credit him with reshaping Europe, others view him as a cruel megalomaniac who brought chaos to the continent. However, there is unanimous agreement that his bicorne hats were an iconic symbol of his presence.
The bicorne hat evolved from the tricorn, a popular hat shape during the late 18th century. While the tricorn was worn with three corners facing upward, the bicorne had a half-moon shape with two corners facing front and back, allowing soldiers to carry bayonets without hinderance. However, Napoleon’s unique style was to wear the hat with the corners facing sideways, a look referred to as “en bataille” or in battle. This style became instantly recognizable, both on the battlefield and in paintings depicting his conquests.
Napoleon’s loyalty to his hats was evident, as he always carried a set of twelve with him. His favorite hatter was Poupard, a boutique located in a former French royal palace.
The bicorne hat remained a symbol of Napoleon even in death. When he was buried in 1821 on Saint Helena Island, where he had been exiled since 1815, he was laid to rest in his colonel’s uniform, with his sash of the Légion d’Honneur and a bicorne hat resting on his legs. Today, this hat represents the tragic hero that Napoleon has become in popular imagination.
The acquisition of this rare bicorne hat is a testament to the enduring fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte and his symbolic headwear. It serves as a reminder of a historical era that forever changed the course of France and the world.
What is a bicorne hat?
A bicorne hat is a type of hat with a distinctive half-moon shape, featuring two corners that can be worn facing front and back or sideways.
Why were Napoleon’s bicorne hats significant?
Napoleon Bonaparte’s obsession with bicorne hats made him instantly recognizable among his contemporaries. The hats became an iconic symbol of his presence and were seen as a representation of his powerful legacy.
How many bicorne hats did Napoleon own?
Napoleon is believed to have owned approximately 120 bicorne hats throughout his lifetime.
What did Napoleon’s bicorne hats symbolize?
Napoleon’s bicorne hats symbolize the Napoleonic era, a period of revolution and transformation in France and Europe. They represent his military prowess and immense influence on the world.
Where is Napoleon buried?
Napoleon was initially buried on Saint Helena Island, where he was exiled. However, his remains were later transferred to the Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris, where he is laid to rest in his colonel’s uniform, along with a bicorne hat.
Source: The Washington Post