The €1.932 million ($2.1 million) sale set a record for Napoleon’s trademark two-cornered military dress hats. The French emperor is said to have had about 120 versions of the bicorn headpiece.
According to the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, which sold the hat, only about 16 remain, with most now housed in museums because of their historical significance.
The hat was part of a collection belonging to French industrialist Jean Louis Noisiez that went on sale on Sunday.
It is made of black beaver felt and is decorated with a tricolor cockade, or military rosette.
According to its online listing, the hat - which sold for more than double its original estimate - was made by a furrier at the emperor’s palace.
Napoleon is believed to have worn this particular hat in the middle of his reign. He fixed the cockade to his hat in 1815, on his return to France from his exile in Elba.
“People recognized his hat everywhere,” auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said ahead of the sale. He told Reuters that Napoleon always wore the hat with the corners aligned with his shoulders, while most people at the time wore it with the corners front to back.
“When they see it in the battlefields they knew Napoleon was there and when he’s in private he always had it on his head or he had it in his hand or sometimes he threw it on the ground. That was the image, the symbol of the emperor,” he said.
In 2018, another version of the hat sold for more than $400,000 at an auction in Lyon, France. According to the De Baecque auction house, which arranged that sale, Napoleon constantly had 12 hats in service, each of which had a three-year life span.
Napoleon declared himself emperor of France in 1804 and made a lasting impact on the country as a military leader and ruler, waging wars against many of the European powers of the time.
After his defeat by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he abdicated for the second time and was exiled to the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821.
Other items featured in the auction included Napoleon’s vanity set - complete with razor and toothbrush - and a handkerchief he used on St. Helena while he was sick.
The sale comes as Ridley Scott’s epic movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the diminutive emperor, hits the big screen this week.