Napoleon Signed Document Authorizing Construction of Bridge in Piedmont, Italy During the Earliest Days of the War of the Fifth Coalition

A document in Italian signed by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) as "Napole" at the bottom of the first page. The double-sided partly printed and partly handwritten document is framed behind glass, with a discrete back window providing a view of the real first page of the document. Visible recto is a high-quality photo reproduction of the first page, displayed to the left of the real second page of the document. A portrait of Napoleon after Jacques-Louis David and an engraved name plaque appear at right. Expected wear including a few light wrinkles, else near fine. Not examined out of the frame. The sight size of the document is 7.625" x 12.5." The overall frame size is 31.5" x 21.25" x 1.75."

The document consists of an imperial decree issued by Napoleon from the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France on April 12, 1809. The decree concerned the Kingdom of Italy, a client state of the French Empire since Napoleon named himself King of Italy in March 1805. The Kingdom of Italy was comprised of a handful of provinces in northern and eastern Italy including Veneto and Lombardy. It was directly administered by Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824), Napoleon's stepson, who served as viceroy until 1814.

Decree 352 outlined its proposal in four articles, pledging that the Kingdom of Italy would finance the construction of a bridge over the Sesia River in Vercelli in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. The Sesia River is a tributary of the great Po River, its rapidly flowing waters fed by Swiss glaciers. The bridge was projected to cost 150,000 lire, a sum which would be paid off in installments of 50,000 lire over several years.

Translated in part:

"Napoleon, by the grace of God & by the Constitution, French Emperor, King of Italy, Protector of the Rhine Confederation, have decreed and decree what follows

Art. 1.
Our Kingdom of Italy will contribute the certain sum of 150,000 lire to the expense of building the Vercelli bridge on the Sesia.

Art. 2.
The payment will be made in installments at the rate of 50,000 lire per year starting from the current year.

Art. 3.
This expense will be carried into the budget of the Minister of the Interior, and to the head of the extraordinary works of water and roads.

Art. 4.
The Minister of the Interior is in charge of the execution of this decree.

Given at our Imperial Palace of the Tuileries this day April 12, 1809…"

The construction of this bridge at Vercelli could have been one of the many civic improvements which Napoleon initiated during his administration of Italy, or it might have been considered essential for military reasons. April 1809 was a turbulent time during Napoleon's reign: the War of the Fifth Coalition had just started two days earlier, on April 10, 1809, when Austrian forces invaded southeastern Germany. French forces and their German allies would clash with Austrian, British, Spanish, and Portuguese allied forces across central Europe that spring and summer, until the war concluded at the Treaty of Schönbrunn in October.

Danger also threatened a side theater, the Kingdom of Italy, when Austrian Archduke John invaded northeastern Italy in early April 1809. Franco-Italian forces commanded by de Beauharnais were defeated at the Battle of Sciale (April 16, 1809) and the Battle of Caldiero (late April 1809), and were driven back as far west as Verona, just 230 km to the east of the proposed bridge site at Vercelli.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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