Napoleon Hat Desk Ornament, 1890
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20.5cm (8in) x 14cm (5.5in) x 11cm (4.3in)
Ormolu mounted Siena marble base applied with gilt bronze sword, epaulettes and Legion d’ Honneur, the ribbon of the latter draped across the Emperor’s distinctive bicorne hat in patinated bronze, the top fitted with an ormolu lid concealing a glass lined inkwell within.
‘There you sit, infamous hat!’ begins Prince Metternich’s monologue to the dead Emperor in a scene from Edmond Rostand's play L’Aiglon (1900). The line is the opening of a tirade in which one of the Napoleon's most implacable enemies expresses his hate for the hat which had become the embodiment of the man himself.
The bicorne worn ‘en bataille’ (ie in line with the shoulders) was adopted early & identified him to his troops. Moreover Wellington reportedly said that Napoleon’s hat was worth 40,000 men on the battlefield. One of earliest occasions on which the hat appeared was the Battle of Marengo, where the Premier Consul delivered a crushing victory over the Austrians. The style and size varied little overtime. Four of Napoleon’s famous bicornes were taken to Saint Helena. On Napoleon’s death, one was placed in his coffin, so that they might rest together for eternity.