Speaking of Napoleon…

One of twelve existing hats known to have been worn by Napoleon

One of twelve existing hats known to have been worn by Napoleon

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.

Your Physique Magazine, January 1948

Your Physique Magazine, January 1948

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.

Josephine Bonaparte’s engagement ring

d64b9afb-4eb2-4fb6-aaaa-6f7a37b73b60_481110_496244733745644_823198479_nThe diamond and sapphire engagement ring Napoleon Bonaparte gave to Joséphine will go up for auction March 24 at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, France with an estimate of $20,000. The gold ring is set with teardrop-shaped gems, a diamond and sapphire, each approximately one carat in size.

Empress Joséphine was a 32 year old widow and mother of two when the 26 year old Napoleon wed her on March 9, 1796. The general was not yet the self-crowned emperor and did not have a lot of money at the time, which explains the ring’s ordinary style.

Added April 3: The ring sold for $948,000

Napoleonic what-not…

As a former shoe curator and shoe author I do get more than my fair share of shoe-shaped objects as gifts: Christmas ornaments, paper clip holders, pie servers, tape dispensers, as well as shoe calendars, date books and note cards… but nobody has given me a Napoleonic era shoe-shaped cribbage board and domino set from c. 1800-1815! This lovely however is out of my price range… but thanks for the link Liz – it’s the thought that counts!