Gold leaf from Napoleon’s crown to go under hammer
PARIS: A golden laurel leaf from Napoleon’s crown is to go under the hammer next month, an auction house said on Wednesday.
The French leader crowned himself emperor at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in 1804, famously taking the Roman-style laurel wreath and putting it on his own head, instead of letting Pope Pius VII do the honours.
But at a fitting for the crown in the days leading up to the spectacular event, the “little Corsican” had complained that it was too heavy, the Osenat auction house said.
So goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais took six large leaves out of the crown, later giving one to each of his six daughters.
The crown, modelled on the one worn by the ancient Roman caesars, is the centrepiece of Jacques-Louis David’s monumental painting, “The Coronation of Napoleon”, at the Louvre museum in Paris.
The original wreath was melted down after Napoleon’s fall in the wake of the Battle of Waterloo.
While the gold leaf that will be sold at Fontainebleau near Paris on November 19 “comes down directly through the family of the goldsmith,” Osenat said, the fate of the other five is unknown.
Osenat estimates it will go for between 100,000 and 150,000 euros ($118,000 to $177,000).
The crown Napoleon wore at his coronation had 44 large gold laurel leaves and 12 smaller ones. It cost him 8,000 francs, a considerable fortune at the time, with the box it was stored in setting him back a further 1,300 francs.
Osenat will also offer at the auction a box decorated in gold and mother of pearl owned by Napoleon’s wife Josephine, also made by Biennais. It is expected to fetch around 50,000 euros.