A newly discovered hat with DNA evidence proving it belonged to the legendary European statesman and General Napoleon Bonaparte was unveiled by the Bonhams auction house in Hong Kong on Monday (6).
Described by Bonhams as the “first hat with the Emperor’s DNA”, it is on display in Hong Kong before moving to Paris and London, where it will be auctioned on October 27th.
The hat, one of the iconic bicorns often seen in battlefield representations of Napoleon, had been purchased by its current owner at a small German auction house that it did not know at the time that it had belonged to the emperor.
“It was a purely casual meeting,” said Simon Cottle, director of Bonhams Europe.
The buyer was intrigued when he realized it had inscriptions and other features suggesting it might have belonged to Napoleon, Cottle said, adding that an initial investigation suggested it matched the dimensions and age of Napoleon’s bicorns.
The hat was then analyzed extensively using various methods, including electron microscopy.
“Five strands of hair were discovered when the contents of the hat were closely examined,” said Cottle. “And two of those hairs were then followed, and they bore the mark of Napoleon.”
The history of this hat is very different from other Napoleonic bicorns that have already been offered on the market, according to Cottle. He said that most of them were delivered by noble families linked to the emperor, or soldiers who caught them on the battlefield.
The hat’s estimated price – between £100,000 ($138,550) and £150,000 – was cautious, Cottle said, as the hat has only recently been proven to belong to the emperor.
Other Napoleonic hats, with more history on the auction circuit, netted up to US$ 2.5 million.
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(Written by Farah Master. Editing by Gerry Doyle)