Paris – A faded and cracked felt bicorne cap worn by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million Sunday at an auction of the French emperor’s belongings. That’s right, $2.1 million.
One of the distinctive black bicorne caps worn by Napoleon Bonaparte when he ruled France and waged war against Europe in the 19th century was initially valued Friday at between $650,000 and $870,000.
On Sunday, it was the centerpiece at Fontainebleau during the auction of historic items from the collection of industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez, who died this 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 (euro) for Napoleon’s cap… for this important symbol of the Napoleonic era,” he commented as applause could be heard in the auction room. The buyer, whose identity was not revealed, must pay 28.8% in commissions to Osenat, putting the total price at $2.1 million.
While other officers wore their bicorne caps with the brims facing backwards, Napoleon wore them with the tips to the sides. This style, called “en bataille”—in battle, in French—allowed the troops to see the general and statesman in the midst of combat.
The first to recover the cap for auction was Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster officer and Napoleon’s comrade-in-arms in many battles, including Waterloo, according to the auctioneers. It passed through many hands until he acquired it Noisiez. The businessman built his Napoleonic collection of firearms, swords and coins over 50 years until his death in 2022.