Napoleon ring comes home to the Soane

  • 12 November 2009

Sir John Soane's Museum in London and independent charity The Art Fund today announce the return of a lost treasure to the Museum - a gold mourning ring containing a lock of Napoleon's hair, one of Sir John Soane's prized possessions.

This acquisition is a triumph for the Museum, which was unable to acquire the ring at a London auction in June.

The mourning ring originally belonged to Sir John Soane, celebrated architect and founder of the eponymous Museum, founded in 1833. It was one of his most treasured private possessions, but was not left to his Museum, but rather as a family heirloom. However, it eventually passed out of the family’s ownership. This autumn, thanks to a £30,000 grant from The Art Fund and support from Soane enthusiasts, the Museum reclaimed this lost treasure for a total of £41,000 and returned it to its original home.

The ring first went on sale at Christie’s in June this year - marking the first time the Museum had had news of its whereabouts since Soane’s death in 1837. One of only two pieces of jewellery specifically bequeathed to Sir John Soane’s family, the ring was recognised as a significant, personal, item to be returned to Sir John’s extraordinary collection.

On the day of the June sale, the Museum was the under-bidder. However, the buyer learned of the Museum’s interest and felt that the ring should return to its original home.

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: "This unique relic offers an insight into the cult status of Napoleon at Sir John Soane’s time, as well as the tastes and obsessions of Soane himself. The Art Fund is delighted to help bring home this forgotten treasure to the Sir John Soane’s Museum where visitors will be able to see it in its true context."

Visitors to the Museum will be able to view this distinctive jewel when it goes on display later in November.

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