Napoleon’s hat sells for record amount at auction

Posted on

Napoleon Bonaparte’s iconic hat sold at auction Sunday, fetching a history-making $2.1 million. While French auction house Osenat expected the hat to go for up to $875,328, it far surpassed that amount – and the previous record holder, a Napoleon hat sold at the same auction house for about $2 million in 2014, according to AFP.  

Napoleon was a French general who was key to the French Revolution and then overthrew the French government, and ultimately becoming the emperor of France. The felt hat with its emblem the colors of the French flag – red, white and blue – dates back to the 1800s, according to Osenat. 

His hat was later owned by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a military officer, who kept it in his family until the 19th century when his grandson sold it. Antiques dealer Charles Meyer sold the hat to Jean Brunon in 1928 and it was passed down in his family.

Legendary bicorne of Emperor Napoleon on auction in Paris
A “black beaver” felt two-cornered hat with an embroidered tricolor cockade belonging to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, from the Collection Jean Louis Noisiez, is displayed before going on auction at Osenat auction house, in Paris, France, November 6, 2023.


“Our hat was used by Emperor Napoleon I in the middle of the Empire during the period when Baillon was assigned to the Emperor’s Palace (1806-1815),” the description on the Osenat website reads. Napoleon wore the hat as he returned from the island of Elba in 1815. Napoleon, who was exiled to the island in 1814, escaped and returned to France a year later, becoming emperor again. 

Napoleon was known for wearing hats like this – often cocked to the side, according to BBC News.

In a video about the hat ahead of the sale, auctioneer Jean Pierre Osenat said Napoleon owned about 120, but only about 16 remain, mainly in private collections. 

Pierre said this particular hat “had been through many events” and symbolized Napoleon’s “history of 15 years that revolutionized France and changed the world.” 

He said the image of Napoleon wearing this type of hat – sideways, unlike everyone else – is “the image we have in mind when we think about Napoleon’s world.” 

CBS News has reached out to Osenat for further information and is awaiting response.