Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, has been a renowned figure since the late 18th century, and objects linked with him have always been collectable.
Items associated with Napoleon are often described as
'Napoleonica' in auction catalogues. They can be roughly divided into three groups: objects and documents that have a direct personal association with Napoleon or his family; antiques from the Empire period that reflect his influence or achievements; and the countless books, prints and other commemorative objects produced after his death.
NAPOLEON'S PERSONAL RELICS
Intimate mementoes of Napoleon, such as a lock of his hair or an item of clothing, are beyond the scope of the ordinary collector.
The only authentic personal relics of Napoleon that a collector of limited means might hope to buy at auction are autographed letters and documents.
Napoleon signed countless thousands of minor documents and those of little historical importance may still turn up at affordable prices.
Contemporary prints, showing aspects of Napoleon's career, form a good field for the new collector. There were many reproductions of the most famous paintings by David, Gerard and others.
English prints of Napoleon were usually satirical caricatures; the best are by James Gillray or George Cruikshank.
Antiques associated with Napoleon from the Empire period (1799-1814) tend to be expensive because of their age.
More accessible are later 19th-century artefacts that bear images of Napoleon. His head and hat may form the finial of a pen, the King in an ivory chess-set, the bowl of a pipe or the handle of a spoon.
Some Cantonese ivory card-cases are decorated with the scene of Napoleon on his death bed, or Longwood (his house on St Helena) and the weeping willow that grew beside it.
Napoleon's head is not shown on all items of memorabilia, as the shape of his hat and his tomb were so familiar that they could be used on their own in a design.
NAPOLEON COLLECTOR'S NOTES
Collecting Napoleonic memorabilia is a competitive business, and those things that remain unsold in antique shops are usually pretty run of-the-mill.
If you are interested in the subject, you may find that your best chance of starting a good collection is to visit an auction when an existing collection is sold in lots.
Every collector of Napoleonica is keen to own a good bronze bust of the great man.