Napoleon's two-cornered hat up for grabs at French auction

Fri Oct 24, 2014 7:35pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Rarely have a man and his hat been so linked in the collective imagination as Napoleon and his black, two-cornered hat.

Next month, a "bicorne" felt hat thought to have belonged to the French emperor will be up for auction in Fontainebleau in what the auctioneer calls the "sale of a century" for fans of the legendary leader.

Nearly 1,000 objects will be put on sale by auction house Osenat on Nov. 15 and 16, with the highlight being one of the iconic black hats said to have been worn by Napoleon during the Battle of Marengo in Italy in 1800.

"Napoleon and his hat is one and the same," auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat told Reuters TV. "There is no other object in France's history that is more symbolic of the person it represents."

His trademark look was not accidental, Osenat added.

In the early 19th century, such bicorne hats were worn with the corners pointing front and back, but Napoleon, "to make himself noticed", changed the angle, Osenat said, wearing his with the points facing the sides.

During the 15 years of the empire, Napoleon went through about 120 hats, usually supplied by the Poupart & Cie company, located in what is now known as the Palais-Royal in Paris, and costing about 60 francs.

"Napoleon always had 12 hats in use, each would last three years and were replaced at the rate of four per year," reads the catalog. "As he didn't like new hats, he had them broken in by Constant (his valet)."   Continued...

A black felt two-cornered hat belonging to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is displayed at the Osenat auction house in Paris October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau