"More than half” of Moscow “is consumed”, wrote Napoleon I in September 1812 in an exceptional letter on sale in the United States for 55.
000 dollars, amid renewed interest in the French emperor on the eve of the worldwide release of Ridley Scott's film.
“I walked through the main neighborhoods today. It was a superb city, I say it was, because today more than half is consumed”, according to this historical document signed by Napoleon, dated September 18, 1812 in Moscow in the middle of the Russian countryside.
This letter, authenticated like ten others from Napoleon Bonaparte, has been on direct sale since last week by a dealer specializing in this type of document, Raab Collection in Philadelphia, the cradle of the Revolution and democracy in America at the end of the 18th century. century.
“This letter from Moscow is so rare, it’s simply extraordinary,” the president of the Raab Collection, Nathan Raab, rejoiced on Monday evening by telephone, sharing with AFP photos of these 11 manuscripts written between the 23 October 1793 — before Bonaparte made his coup and then became emperor — and January 21, 1814.
– From 5,000 to 75,000 dollars –
Mr. Raab charges between $5,000 and $75,000 for each letter, before fees, commissions and taxes. That of September 18, 1812, four days after entering Moscow, was offered at $55,000.
Undated photo, distributed by Raab Collection in Philadelphia, of a letter dated September 14, 1812 signed by the French Emperor Napoleon I during the Russian campaign © The Raab Collection Philadelphia – –
In a handwriting elongated, regular but sometimes difficult to decipher, the French emperor wrote from Moscow in flames: “We have found cellars full of wine and brandy which will be of great need to us.”
According to historians, the French imperial army captured Moscow, without fighting, on September 14, 1812 and occupied it until October 23.
Another letter from Napoleon I, of October 20, 1812, but which Raab Collection does not own, was sold at auction in Paris in 2012 for 187,500 euros.
According to the French imperial army, fires had been started in Moscow by the Russian army on September 14, 1812. They ravaged this wooden city (Saint Petersburg then was the capital of Russia) for several days.
– “Everything is going quite well here” –
In two other letters written from the Kremlin on September 23 and 24, 1812, Napoleon wrote to his “cousin”, the statesman of the Revolution and the 'Empire Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès: “Everything is going quite well here. The season is neither cold nor hot. My health is very good. The fires have completely stopped.”
Undated photo, released by Raab Collection in Philadelphia, of a letter written by French Emperor Napoleon I during the Russian campaign © The Raab Collection Philadelphia – –
Raab Collection requests for these two documents, more than two centuries old, 18,000 and 25,000 dollars.
According to French and Russian historians, the Russian campaign from June to December 1812 left hundreds of thousands dead and missing on each side.
For Mr. Raab, a trained historian who studied in France, the “legacy” of the emperor who set Europe ablaze is “neither white nor black, but very gray”. The fact remains that “Napoleon is a gigantic character, immensely admired by Americans who consider him a strong imperial leader.”
On its website, Raab Collection believes that “Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most brilliant commanders in military history, having carried the message of the French Revolution across Europe.”
This American antiquarian, who sells manuscripts to collectors, historians, booksellers and librarians, specializes in dozens of historical figures, mainly European, the vast majority of them men and a few women: Louis XIV, Lafayette, Victoria, Elizabeth II, Churchill , Gandhi, Darwin but also Hugo, Kippling, Hugo, Verdi, Einstein and Eva Perón.
The period lends itself to the sale of objects of the French emperor, recognized Nathan Raab.
It is obvious that “the film (“Napoleon” by director Ridley Scott which is released worldwide on November 22, editor's note) is attracting international attention”, admits the American trader.
Sunday , near Paris, the famous black bicorne hat with its blue, white and red cockade was sold at auction for 1.93 million euros, a world record according to the French house Osenat.
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