Art Collection of Napoleon’s Best Friend Makes $4.4 million in Paris Auction

A collection recalling the life and career of Marshal Berthier, Prince of Neuchatel & Valangin, Prince of Wagram (1753-1815), and one of Napoleon’s closest companions, went to auction at Sotheby’s Paris, where it totaled €3.2 million ($4.4 million). The 339 lots sold 79.4 percent by lot and 79.2 percent by value, Art Daily reports.

Vice President of Sotheby’s France, Pierre Mothes, said that Sotheby’s was: “delighted to pay tribute to a close companion of Napoleon: a figure guided above all by a sense of honour and loyalty towards the Emperor, and whose modesty prompted him to stay in the background and let other marshals enjoy the limelight.”

Berthier’s souvenirs to go under the hammer were in excellent condition, and include a unique ensemble of private correspondence and manuscripts revealing coded military secrets, along with portraits and works of art. The sale instigated strong bidding mainly from Europeans (especially French, Russians, and Italians).

The sale’s top prices, two swords made at the Manufacture Royale d’Armes in Naples and featuring the monogram of Joachim Napoleon Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, sold for €289,500 ($400, 329) apiece (lots 320 & 321, est. €200,000-250,000 each).

An equestrian portrait of the General and his two brothers during the Italian Campaign, by the acclaimed battle-painter Louis-François Lejeune, sold for €241,500 ($333,953), soaring above its €100,000-150,000 presale estimate.

The sale also featured three unpublished and previously unknown letters addressed to Marshal Berthier by Empress Josephine. One letter, begging Berthier to take good care of Napoleon, sold for €23,750 ($32,842), (lot 245, est. €8,000-12,000), while another, telling of how the wife of Marshal Lannes rushed to her husband’s side after he was mortally wounded at Essling, fetched €27,500 ($38,028), (lot 247, est. €8,000-12,000).

Other sales included orders of chivalry that decorated Berthier’s career, his court costumes, his book collection, and a multitude of titles, documents, and handwritten correspondence kept by Marshal Berthier and his family.


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