A golden laurel leaf cut from the crown Napoleon Bonaparte wore to his coronation as French Emperor has been sold for €625,000 (£550,000), around six times more than the auctioneers had predicted.
The leaf, which went to a foreign buyer whose identity was not revealed, was one of six removed from the crown before the event in 1804 because Napoleon had complained that the headset was too heavy.
The small 10g decoration, worth only a few hundred euros if melted down for its metal, was among some 400 works linked to the emperor that were sold on Sunday by auction house Osenat at Fontainebleau, near Paris.
These included a powder box engraved with gold flowers which belonged to Napoleon’s wife Josephine, which sold for three times more than expected at €150,000, and a silk court waistcoat with gilded silver embroidery worn by the emperor.
The auction was further proof of the keen interest for all things related to the man whose empire once included Egypt, Belgium, the Netherlands as well as much of Poland, Spain, Germany, Austria and Italy.
His famous bicorne hat was sold at auction in 2014 to a South Korean bidder for €1.8 million, nearly five times the asking price.
Napoleon crowned himself emperor at Notre Dame in Paris, placing the crown on his own head, despite the fact that Pope Pius VII was in the cathedral to preside over the ceremony.
Napoleon, hailed by many as a great military leader and visionary reformer but despised by critics as a brutal dictator who plunged much of Europe into war, said he was crowning himself as he owed his authority to himself and not to God. The leaf that was sold on Sunday never made it to the ceremony.
It was removed beforehand after the soon-to-be emperor complained to its creator, the goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais, that the crown, inspired by the laurel wreath worn by Roman emperor Julius Caesar, was too heavy.
Mr Biennais removed six leaves, and gave one to each of his six daughters. The one sold on Sunday had stayed in the family ever since. The whereabouts of the other five is unknown.
The crown itself was melted down after the ousting of Napoleon in 1814 and the return of the Bourbon Dynasty to the French throne.