Napoleon death mask auctions with 183% increase

paulfrasercollectibles

2015-06-26 13:19:32

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Napoleon death mask auctions with 183% increase

Death mask of Napoleon known as the 'Boys cast' auctions for $263,000 at Bonhams

The "Boys cast" - the most significant example of a cast of Napoleon's death mask - has auctioned for 170,000 ($263,020) at Bonhams.

The sale price represents a 183% increase on the item's 60,000 top estimate.

Napoleon death mask auction Casts were hugely popular before the advent of photography

Before the invention of photography, death masks were created in order to produce "an objective likeness", according to Bonhams' Felix Pryor.

The "Boys cast", however, fails to show the statesman-like figure we might expect to see, immortalising "a saint" rather than "a man of action".

Head of Bonhams' UK book division, Matthew Haley, explains: "This mask is a fascinating reflection on the nature of power and its projection.

"By the time the cast was made Napoleon's body had begun to decompose in the fierce heat and, as was noted at the time, his features had changed quite markedly."

The cast, made for Reverend Richard Boys in May 1821, is one of a very small number with a provenance linking it back to the island of St Helena, where Napoleon spent his final years in exile.

It was offered from the collection of Andrew Boys, direct descendant of Richard Boys.

Richard Boys is thought to have become close to the exiled emperor while acting as senior chaplain on the island. The pair often played chess and Boys brought several mementos of Napoleon with him on his return to England, the valuable cast among them.

Although many Napoleon death masks exist, only four copies have been certified as authentic. An unauthenticated bronze cast sold for $8,875 at Heritage Auctions in December 2008.

Collectibles relating to Napoleon's life and love, Josephine, are highly sought after at auction.

In March 2013, the diamond and sapphire engagement ring Napoleon gave to Josephine sold for an unprecedented $1.2m - a 5,900% increase on its $20,000 top valuation.

Military history enthusiast? Take a look at this Napoleon Bonaparte-autographed letter we currently have in stock.

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