The vendor at the time believed the gilt bronze eagle to have been an embellishment from a church lectern.
More than 1000 bronze eagles were handed out by Napoleon at a great military gathering on the Champ de Mars in Paris on December 3, 1804 – 108 were given to the legions of the National Guard, 600 to infantry, artillery and special corps, 280 to cavalry regiments and between 40-50 of these larger 14in (35cm) models to the navy. Every French ship-of-the-line carried one but only one directly comparable piece is known: the named eagle of Le Tonnant in the Musée de L’Empéri, Salon de Provence.
This piece, with visible old repairs and missing a nameplate, was one of Webb’s most coveted possessions and it had never been offered publicly for sale until it appeared in an auction held by Dix Noonan Webb in London on August 20. The showpiece lot of the Webb militaria collection, it went to a private collector for £40,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).