Offered as a single lot estimated at $1.5m-3.5m at Rock Island Auction Company on December 3-5, the set came for sale from Robert M Lee (1927- 2016), a Nevada businessman well known as a collector of cars and antique firearms.
It was bought by a phone bidder for $2.5m (£1.875m)or $2.875m when buyer’s premium is included, setting a house record for Rock Island.
The six-piece garniture included a gold inlaid rifled carbine, carriage pistols, pocket pistols, and a dress sword and scabbard made under the aegis of Nicolas-Noël Boutet at the Versailles Manufactory in 1797 at the moment when Napoleon was rising to power. Purchased by the Directory of the French Republic for 1000 guineas, the deluxe weapons were presented to General Bonaparte ‘as a testimony of their approbation in consequence of his victories over the Austrians and Sardinians’.
The sword is thought to be the weapon Napoleon carried when he drove the Council of 500 out of St Cloud.
Later a gift from the emperor to General Jean-Andoche Junot c.1803, the garniture was sold by Junot’s widow, the Duchess Abrantes, to a British officer as Napoleon travelled to St Helena. It was exhibited in the 1816 Ancient Armour exhibition at Oplotheca in London celebrating the victory at Waterloo and it was acquired by Robert Dillon, 3rd Lord Clonbrock (1807-93) in 1833 and later sold by his descendants at Christie’s in 1976.
It had then sold at Christie’s King Street in a sale of Fine Antiques Arms and Armour in 1991 for a hammer price of £105,000.