A solid gold presentation snuff box with a monogrammed ‘N’ for Napoleon on the lid sold for £58,850 ($91,705) at Bonhams Fine Silver sale in London yesterday (23 November). It had been estimated at £20,000-30,000.
It was one of 100 gold boxes made for the Emperor in 1806 as gifts for friends, family, diplomats and foreign dignitaries. After his coronation in 1804, Napoleon enthusiastically embraced the trappings of his new imperial position and the box is signed by Nicolas Marguerite, described as Jeweller to the Crown and their Imperial Majesties.
Napoleon’s elevation famously lost him the respect of Beethoven, who crossed out the dedication he had made on the score of his 3rd Symphony in disgust, but it had the effect of cementing his authority and prestige, both in France itself and abroad.
Elsewhere, a Russian vari-coloured gold, enamelled and diamond Imperial presentation box, bearing the monogram of Tsar Nicholas I, sold for £51,650 against an estimate of £20,000-30,000.
Collectors are naturally fascinated by unique and attractive collectibles with military overtones like this. We had the privilege of selling a deep red sash which had belonged to Napoleon not so long ago.
Collectors frustrated to have missed out on such a great piece of Napoleonic history will be pleased to know that we currently have a letter written by the Emperor marking a key moment in the Napoleonic wars available right now.