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Napoleon Bonaparte’s Telescope

An extremely fine late 18th Century gilt brass and enamel 1 1/2-inch three-draw refracting telescope, engraved on the largest draw-tube “J.J. Cambacérès à Napoléon Mai 10, 1800”

(Napoleon Bonaparte)

Napoleon Bonaparte’s telescope

One of the greatest military leaders in history, and emperor of France from 1799 until 1815, he conquered much of Europe. He helped remake the map of Europe and established many government and legal reforms, most notably the “Napoleonic Code”.
According to the engraved inscription on the draw-tube, this telescope was given to Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) by Jean-Jacques de Cambacérès on 10 May 1800. It was given to him in Geneva on this date as ‘Napoleon had left Paris, to join the blockaded army in. He stayed for 3 nights with de Saussure, studied maps of the St. Bernard, arranged the timetable for the march and made the necessary appointments for the commanders of the advance guard (Lannes) and cavalry (Murat).

It is interesting to note that the famous oil painting depicting Napoleon on a prancing steed (“Napoleon crossing the Alps” by Jacques-Louis David, 1800, oil on canvas, 260 x 221 cms), is from exactly this period, when Napoleon crossed the St. Bernard in May 1800.

Jean-Jacques Cambacérès, a notorious bachelor and heavy smoker of Virginia tobacco, had a preference for subjects “à l’antique”, and his importance for the history of freemasonry should not be neglected. These two characteristics are perfectly reflected in his collection of gold boxes which also witnesses the change of taste in the applied arts in France from the Louis XVI style to Neoclassicism and Empire.

Fifteen fine enamel snuff boxes from Cambacérès’ collection were sold at Christie’s Geneva on 15 November 1994.


Filed under: Gold, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vintage, Watch, Watches

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