Sacré Bleu! Someone Just Spent $2 Million on Napoleon’s Hat

There is a growing collector's market for paraphernalia related to French military commander.

The bicorne black beaver hat belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte when he ruled the French empire in the 19th century, is seen during the auction sale in Paris, France on November 19, 2023. Photo by Mohamad Salaheldin Abdelg Alsayed/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Whether it’s the state of the world at large right now or perhaps the irresistible call of Joaquin Phoenix in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming biopic… everyone is thinking about Napoleon right now. Or maybe they’re just thinking about Napoleon’s hat.

A two-cornered hat worn by the French ruler just sold for a record €1.9 million ($2 million) at auction in France. The black bicorne hat made from beaver felt soared past its €800,000 ($876,400) upper estimate at Hotel Drouot in Fontainebleau.

There’s been an enduring fascination with the tiny tyrant in culture—from countless fictionalizations of his life to references in Orwell’s Animal Farm or even providing the inspiration for the term “small man syndrome”—and there has been a growing collector’s market for paraphernalia related to French military commander.

The hat is a rare piece of military history, being one of only 20 surviving examples of Napoleon’s famous headwear that has made him as recognizable in the afterlife as he was on the battlefield. Napoleon wore the military hat sideways to distinguish himself from his officers.

“This hat was discernible by everyone. When they saw it in battle they knew without a doubt that Napoleon was present,” the auction house’s Pierre Osenat said to press ahead of the sale.

The hat is one of few remaining in private hands, and had been held in the collection the descendants of a quartermaster who had worked in the French commander’s palace.

According to the auction house, the chapeau has added value due to its ribbon cockade, believed to have been added by Napoleon himself on his travels.

It was sold alongside Napoleon memorabilia including a nightshirt and other ephemera as part of the collection of the late French businessman Jean Louis Noisiez, one of a number of collectors fascinated with the French ruler, who rose to power after the French Revolution in 1789. The result for this hat just surpassed the previous record, set in 2018 for another black hat believed to have been dropped by the emperor during the battle of Waterloo.


More Trending Stories:  

A Shipwreck Off the Coast of Colombia May Hold $20 Billion Worth of Treasure 

Hot! How a Backyard Photographer Captured Some of the Most Detailed Images of the Sun 

Chinese Artist Chen Ke Celebrates the Women of Bauhaus in a Colorful, Mixed-Media Paris Debut 

A Centuries-Spanning Exhibition Investigates the Age-Old Lure of Money 

Meet the Woman Behind ‘Weird Medieval Guys,’ the Internet Hit Mining Odd Art From the Middle Ages 

Conservators Find a ‘Monstrous Figure’ Hidden in an 18th-Century Joshua Reynolds Painting 

A First-Class Dinner Menu Salvaged From the Titanic Makes Waves at Auction 

The Louvre Seeks Donations to Stop an American Museum From Acquiring a French Masterpiece 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.