Lock of Napoleon's hair sells in New Zealand auction

30th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A lock of hair cut from the head of former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte shortly after his death sold for just over 13,000 US dollars in an auction in New Zealand on Tuesday.

The lock was bought by an unnamed collector in London, according to Hamish Coney, managing director of auctioneers Art+Object.

The hair, in a tightly-bound circle, was cut the morning after Napoleon's death on the Atlantic island of St Helena in 1821.

Bidders from New Zealand, Lithuania, London, Hong Kong, the United States and France vied for the hair and about 40 other items related to Napoleon that sold for a total of almost 100,000 US dollars at the Auckland auction.

The collection was sold by the descendants of Denzil Ibbetson, a British military officer and artist who served on St Helena where Napoleon was detained by the British from 1815 until his death in 1821 aged 51.

Ibbetson's diary, which sold for 6,600 US dollars, described conversations with Napoleon, who still harboured ambitions of invading Britain despite his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

"The thing that surprised me was the diary going for a lot less than I thought, but the lock of hair went for a lot more than I thought," Coney told the Dominion Post newspaper.

The collection, which had been kept shut away in a suitcase for many years, included about 25 watercolour or pen depictions by Ibbetson of Napoleon and scenes from St Helena.

A lithograph and watercolour image of Napoleon on his deathbed achieved the highest bid in the auction of 14,600 dollars.

The collection was brought to New Zealand in 1864 by Ibbetson's son and had been kept in the family until the auction.

© 2010 AFP

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