A wine glass that is thought to have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte is to be part of the auction of Fine British and European Glass and Paperweights on 15th June 2011 at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London.
The glass is offered in a red-leather coated wooden case with gilded toolwork, and attached to the case is a handwritten note that reads Wine Glafs of 1st Emperor Napoleon given to James C.Fyler Esqr. by the Count Strasoldo Governor of Elba in 1818 A.D. It is unusual for a liquer glass to be encased in such a fine manner, strongly suggesting that the owner may have been a senior military commander on campaign.
In 1814 Napoleon was exiled to the Italian island of Elba following his abdication at Fontainbleau and he lived in a house that was subsequently inhabited by the Governor of the island. In 1817, James Chamness Fyler (1790-1858) to whom the label on the glass case is thought to refer, visited the island with his friend John Singleton as part of their Grand Tour travels around Europe. Singleton’s diary recalls their stay in 1817 and describes them being entertained by the Governor.
On the letter attached to the case it refers to Count Strasoldo as the Governor of Elba, however, Giulio Giuseppe di Strassoldo von Graffenberg (1771-1830) was actually in Milan at this time serving as the representative of the Holy Roman Empire. After leaving Elba, Singleton and Fyler continued travelling around Italy before returning to England, and so it is possible that Fyler acquired the glass either whilst visiting Elba or from elsewhere in Italy through a meeting with Strassoldo.
Simon Cottle, Head of Bonhams Glass Department, comments, “This example strongly resembles a similar glass in the Museo Napoleonico in Rome which was directly acquired from descendants of Napoleon, and the case is specially made for the glass (which bears the crowned N for the Emperor). This indicates its special nature and it was very portable which would have been ideal for a man on a campaign. Although much of it is circumstantial, weighing up all the evidence it seems highly likely that the glass once belonged to the man himself.” The glass is estimated to sell for £2,000-3,000.