A black bicorne hat that once belonged to Napoleon I was auctioned in France on Sunday for 1.93 million euros (around 2.1 million dollars, including fees), setting a world record and highlighting the enduring fascination with this historical figure.
Osenat Auction House declared it a “world record for a hat of Napoleon I.” The auction in France drew “collectors from around the world” and sparked “a fierce bidding battle in the room, over the phone, and online,” according to Osenat.
This sale surpasses the auction house’s previous record in 2014, when another one of Napoleon’s hats sold for 1.88 million euros (2.05 million dollars).
The identity and nationality of the buyer have not been disclosed.
The iconic felt bicorne, adorned with a red, white, and blue cockade, attracted numerous onlookers when displayed before the auction. Initially priced at 500,000 euros (544,000 dollars), the hat far exceeded its estimated value of between 600,000 and 800,000 euros (650,000 and 870,000 dollars).
The auction took place in Fontainebleau, on the outskirts of Paris, and coincided with the upcoming release of a major production about Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Described as a piece of history, Jean-Pierre Osenat, the auctioneer and president of the auction house, stated, “This hat completely symbolizes the emperor. All collectors who appreciate a Napoleonic souvenir want to have a hat because Napoleon was recognized everywhere with his hat.”
Experts estimate that Napoleon (1769–1821) used around 120 of these hats over a fifteen-year period, making them periodically appear in auctions. The bicorne auctioned on Sunday was part of the collection of Jean-Louis Noisiez, founder of the GSF business group, who passed away in 2022.
Crafted by Pierre-Quentin-Joseph Baillon, the Emperor’s furrier since 1806, the bicorne had its cockade added by Napoleon while in the Mediterranean, returning from the island of Elba on March 1, 1815. The item remained in the family until the late 19th century and was later resold to various collectors.