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Napoleon's Personally Owned Shaving Brush, Used During the Italian Campaign, 1796-1797, Ex-Nicholson Collection

A travel shaving brush personally owned and used by French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), later engraved in French "Blaireau Ayant Servi / Au Général Bonaparte / Dans / Ses Compagnes d'Italie" [trans: "Shaving Brush Having Served / General Bonaparte / During / His Italian Campaigns."] Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection.

The travel shaving brush is made of silver (untested), and dismantles into five parts: the cylindrical handle; a screw-top bottom perforated with 28 stars; the cap; the screw-top finial; and the animal hair brush, which could be of badger, boar, or horsehair. The handle is decorated with a classic example of French Revolutionary iconography: a Phrygian cap surmounting a pole surrounded by a Roman fasces, or a bundle of rods. A possible maker's mark is located above this engraving, though it and the decorative vignette are slightly damaged. Overall dark patina, and scattered minor dings, else near fine. The animal hair brush is currently detached from the handle, with one end bound with thread and the other with a rubber band. The shaving brush measures 3.75" tall by nearly 1" diameter. The bristled brush measures 2" long. Contained in a custom wooden box with lid.

This travel shaving brush would have been personally handled by Napoleon himself. We know incredible details about Bonaparte's daily grooming regimen as documented by the Napoleonic Historical Society. Napoleon's morning ritual included shaving himself while his First Valet, Louis Constant Wairy (1778-1845) held his master's soap, basin, and towel, and his Second Valet, Roustam Raza (1783-1845) held the mirror. Bonaparte was taught how to use a straight razor, but apparently was not very adept in using it, sometimes cutting himself. Afterwards, Napoleon rinsed his hands in rose and almond paste water and dabbed his face with fine sponges.

This travel shaving brush may have once been kept in a traveling toiletry case called a nécessaire. These all-purpose leather and mahogany traveling cases were jam-packed with travel essentials. Toiletry items, writing instruments, lighting apparatus, and tableware could be found in nestling trays and stacked compartments next to mirrors, coin cubbies, sewing kits, and jewelry. An example of one of Napoleon's nécessaires, commissioned in 1806 and produced by the Emperor's official goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais (1764-1843), can be found in the collection of the Musée du Louvre. This case, measuring only 21" x 13.7" by 5.5," contained 86 items including a shaving brush.

The engraved inscription on the shaving brush states that Bonaparte used it during his Italian campaigns (1796-1797). Napoleon, flushed with triumph after his role in quelling a royalist insurrection in Paris in 1795, was dispatched to Italy to what was then considered a minor front of little importance. As commander of the Armée d'Italie after March 1796, Napoleon quickly put the region on the map and changed the course of the War of the First Coalition (1792-1797). He stormed through northern and central Italy defeating Austrian forces in an onslaught of highly successful offensives. The Austrians sued for peace once Napoleon's forces threatened Vienna. Napoleon then turned his attention to hounding the British out of Egypt…

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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