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Monday, November 20th

A hat worn by Napoleon sold for $2.1 million at an auction of the French emperor's belongings

One of the signature broad, black hats that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe is on display at Osenat's auction house in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The hat is tipped to fetch more than half a million euros (dollars) at the auction Sunday of Napoleonic memorabilia patiently collected by a French industrialist. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS (AP) - A faded and cracked felt bicorne hat worn by Napoléon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction Sunday of the French emperor's belongings.

Yes, $2.1 million.

The signature broad, black hat - one of a handful still in existence that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe - was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday's auction in Fontainebleau of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

''We are at 1.5 million (euros) for Napoleon's hat ... for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,'' he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).

While other officers customarily wore their bicorne hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style - known as "en bataille," or in battle - made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoléon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott's film ''Napoleon'' with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.

A visitor watches one of the signature broad, black hats that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe on display at Osenat's auction house in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The hat is tipped to fetch more than half a million euros (dollars) at the auction Sunday of Napoleonic memorabilia patiently collected by a French industrialist. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Raphael Pitchal, left, and Jean Christophe Chataignier of Osenat's auction house remove the protection of one of the signature broad, black hats that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe at Osenat's auction house in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The hat is tipped to fetch more than half a million euros (dollars) at the auction Sunday of Napoleonic memorabilia patiently collected by a French industrialist. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

One of the signature broad, black hats that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe is on display at Osenat's auction house in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The hat is tipped to fetch more than half a million euros (dollars) at the auction Sunday of Napoleonic memorabilia patiently collected by a French industrialist. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

One of the signature broad, black hats that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe is on display at Osenat's auction house in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The hat is tipped to fetch more than half a million euros (dollars) at the auction Sunday of Napoleonic memorabilia patiently collected by a French industrialist. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)