A newly discovered hat with DNA evidence showing it belonged to legendary European statesman and general Napoleon Bonaparte was viewed Monday by Hong Kong auction house Bonhams.
Described by Bonhams as the “first hat with the Emperor’s DNA”, it is on display in Hong Kong before moving to Paris and then to London, where it will be auctioned on October 27.
The hat, one of the iconic bicornes often seen in depictions of Napoleon on the battlefield, had been purchased by the current owner from a small German auction house, unaware at the time, that it belonged to the Emperor.
“It was purely a chance meeting,” said Simon Cottle, director of Bonhams Europe.
The buyer became intrigued when he realized it had inscriptions and other features suggesting it might have belonged to Napoleon, Cottle said, adding that an initial examination suggested it matched the size and age of Napoleon’s bicornes.
The hat was then extensively tested using a variety of methods, including electronic microscopy.
“Five hairs were discovered when the contents of the hat were examined very closely,” Cottle said. “And two of those hairs were then followed and they carried Napoleon’s marker.”
The story behind this hat is very different from other Napoleonic bicornes on the market, according to Cottle. He said most of them had been passed down from noble families with ties to the emperor, or soldiers they picked up on the battlefield.
The estimated price for the hat — between £100,000 ($138,550) and £150,000 — was conservative, Cottle said, as the hat was only recently proven to belong to the emperor.
Other Napoleonic hats, with more history in the auction circuit, have fetched as much as $2.5 million dollars.
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