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France

Napoleon's Cloak (Burnous) 1797 - 1805

Felt, silk, silk brocade, silver thread, braid, tinsel | RCIN 61156

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A red felt cloak or burnous with a hood; embroidered and appliqued with silver thread and braid borders of trefoils, elaborate scrolls and arabesques around the hood and breast and with tinsel tassels attached. The cloak is lined with yellow silk brocade woven with pink roses and appliqued around the opening with purple silk lozenges on red felt, to represent an Imperial eagle.

Contemporary biographies, and other works, including Tolstoy's War and Peace, describe Napoleon wearing a cloak of this nature during his campaigns in Egypt in the late 1790s. The design is inspired by the North African burnous, traditionally worn by Berbers, although this cloak was probably made in France. It was seized from Napoleon's baggage train at the field of Waterloo, following the defeat of the Emperor.