Pair of small painted wooden coffins enclosing... - Lot 114 - Pierre Bergé & Associés

Lot 114
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Estimation :
10000 - 12000 EUR
Pair of small painted wooden coffins enclosing... - Lot 114 - Pierre Bergé & Associés
Pair of small painted wooden coffins enclosing a bust of Napoleon for one and that of an Austro-Hungarian or Russian hussar for the other. Once the coffin is open, both can be raised by activating an iron rod with a ring under the box. Napoleon wears the uniform of a colonel of the Guard, the Emperor's favourite uniform in which he was buried. Wearing a shako decorated with a two-headed eagle, the hussar is dressed in a white dolman with a blue shoulder wrap, his right arm bent in a salute when raised. The coffins are black with white flames, reminiscent of mortuary catafalques made of black cloth decorated with silver flames; on the lids, the imperial crown, the hand of justice and the sword, insignia of the Emperor, reminiscent of the catafalque; on the front, the N of Napoleon framed by branches of laurel with knotted stems
Paris, probably made during the Return of the ashes in 1840
Heights: 20.3 cm and 21.2 cm - Length: 54.8 cm - Width: 26 cm and 27 cm
(accidents and missing parts, old repairs)
These two coffins containing puppets are real curiosities and were probably made for the Return of Napoleon's ashes in Paris. In honour of the Emperor's wish to be buried "on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people [whom he had] loved so much", Louis-Philippe and Adolphe Thiers, then President of the Council, organised the repatriation of the mortal remains that had been buried in Saint Helena. So it was that on 15 December 1840, in the freezing cold, the funeral float left from the Pont de Neuilly and crossed the capital to the Invalides. This long procession attracted an unimaginable crowd, and a number of platforms and temporary installations were set up for the occasion along the route. These coffins, with their animated figures, are surely evidence of a type of popular and ephemeral attraction intended to extract a few coins from onlookers and to keep them waiting during the event; they give an idea of the scenes to which Victor Hugo seems to allude when recounting Napoleon's funeral in Choses vues (Collection Folio, 11, 1972, p. 197): "On the other side of the avenue, on a barrack of saltimbanques adorned with two hideous sign paintings representing, one, the death of the emperor, the other, the feat of arms of Mazagran, I read this other sign: NAPOLEON IN HIS BAG. THREE BUCKS."
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