I am surprised that Josephine’s engagement ring from Napoleon was not already in some museum collection, but sometimes its amazing what is still out there… When I was growing up in Vancouver I knew a family whose dining room table had supposedly belonged to Napoleon while he was detained on Elba. I don’t know if the story was true or not, but the provenance was relayed with complete earnestness.
In 2008 a collection of 60 Napoleon artifacts were donated to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The collection had been assembled by a Mr. Ben Weider. Weider had started his collection in 1975 with the purchase of a shirt from a Parisian dealer that came with the provenance of having been in the exiled emperor’s wardrobe on St. Helena. Other clothing artifacts in Weider’s collection included one of Napoleon’s hats worn during the Russian campaign, as well as a pair of his riding boots and gloves.
Weider passed away soon after his bequest to the museum. Many who knew Mr. Weider as a Napoleonic scholar and collector were surprised to read in his obituary that he was better known as the father of the sport of bodybuilding. Ben Weider and his brother Joe founded the first bodybuilding federation in 1946, made supplements and exercise equipment, and also published numerous magazines including Your Physique and Muscle Power. In 1969 Weider brought Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian bodybuilding champion, to California to advertise Weider products and promote the sport of bodybuilding. In 1977 Weider produced the film ‘Pumping Iron’, and the rest, as they say, is history.