He may have conquered much of Europe, but time waits for no man, as Napoleon found out on May 5, 1821.
A reminder of this came up atBonhams
Knightsbridgelast week when a cast of the death mask of the former
French emperor, made shortly after his death on St Helena, was sold
for £140,000 as a separately catalogued element of a June 19 book,
map and manuscript sale.
The estimate was £40,000-60,000.
Bonhams said the cast - known as the
'Boys cast' - was made for the Rev Richard Boys, Senior Chaplain of
St Helena, and is "one of only a tiny handful with a provenance
linking it directly to the island".
All but one of the other examples are in
national collections, either in France or in Corsica. It was
consigned by Andrew Boys, a direct descendant of the original
After Napoleon's death, there was a
protracted wrangle over whether his physician, Francesco
Antommarchi, or the British doctor, Francis Burton, should make a
death mask. Practical difficulties also meant that this was not
actually done until May 7.
The mask was given to the Rev Boys by the
portrait painter, J.W. Rubidge, who assisted Antommarchi in making
the mask. The Rev Boys received it before Napoleon's entourage left
the island towards the end of May.
It is inscribed "Rev Mr Boys" on the inside
of the cast, and comes with a note by him reading This Cast was
taken from the Face of Napoleon Buonaparte as he lay dead at
Longwood St. Helena 7th May 1821 which I do hereby certify/ R. Boys
M.A. Sen.r Chaplain/ By Rubidge.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%