ONE of ten priceless Napoleon Bonaparte artefacts stolen from The Briars Museum at Mount Martha in 2014 has been recovered, after it appeared on an online selling site.
A rare miniature portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Josephine was allegedly discovered online by a Sydney art dealer, who bought the portrait on eBay for $250 before realising it was one of the items stolen eight years ago.
Speaking to the ABC on Thursday, Leigh Capel said he was stunned when he realised the portrait had been stolen.
Mr Capel said he immediately contacted the Mornington Peninsula Gallery, which houses the rest of the Napoleon collection after it was moved there after the 2014 theft.
Ten items were taken from the collection during the 2014 theft, including locks of Napoleon’s hair and a silver inkwell set with three gold Napoleons that were allegedly in his pocket when he died.
The collection of artefacts was put together by Dame Mable Brooks, who was the great-granddaughter of early Mount Martha settler Alexander Balcombe, who had family ties to the French emperor.
Police statements at the time said thieves had “jemmied open cabinets” and taken items that also included a ring, a ribbon inscribed by Napoleon in 1815 and a snuff box.
On Thursday, Victoria Police were unable to confirm or deny if any other items had been located, but confirmed the investigation is ongoing.
The story of how Napoleon’s belonging came to be in Mount Martha has captivated historians.
In 1976 Balcombe’s great-great grandsons, the a’Beckett brothers, donated the homestead with surrounding garden to the National Trust and shire in memory of their mother, and sold the farm to the shire.
The Balcombe Homestead housed part of the unique Napoleonic Collection, based on personal memorabilia given by Napoleon to the Balcombe family at their ‘Briars’ home at St Helena, a British Overseas Territory, during his exile on the island.
It was later added to by Dame Brookes, and includes a copy of Napoleon’s death mask.
The Briars Homestead could not be contacted for comment.