A lock of former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's hair has been sold at auction in Auckland.
A private bidder paid $25,000 for the unusual historical remnant at Cordy's auction house in Remuera last month.
The fine, auburn curls were said to be cut from the military general's head the day after his death in exile on the island of St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean in May 1821.
The rare and unusual historical artefact was kept within a folded handwritten note which says: "Aged 52. Lock of hair cut off the Emperor Napoleon's head after his death at St. Helena & given to Mrs. Grimstone by Mons. Novarre (sic) - June 20th, 1823."
Jean Abram Novarre, a Swiss-born loyal servant of Napoleon, reportedly shaved Napoleon's head after his death and before a cast was taken for his death mask. At his autopsy, the emperor's penis was also allegedly removed, along with other vital organs, and ended up with a priest, to a London bookseller, and is now owned by the family of the late leading American urologist John J. Lattimer.
It's the latest in a long history of weird celebrity items which have surfaced at auction, including some underwear worn by singer Michael Jackson which were sold for $1 million on eBay in 2008. Others includes Star Trek actor William Shatner's kidney stone which fetched $36,600, papers written by physicist Albert Einstein which explain the theory of happiness selling for $1.3m, and in the 1960s, Beatles star John Lennon giving one of his teeth to his housekeeper, who kept it and sold it at an auction in 2011 for $45,700.
Examination of the Napoleon hair sample suggests it had been cut with a razor, and its colour and type is said to be the same as other examples authenticated by Novarre.
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg said that although the hair's provenance is "strong", he admitted that 100 per cent proof it came from Napoleon is difficult.
Grigg thinks part of its provenance was lost with the passing of its previous owner, noted Christchurch antiques dealer Deric Blackler who died in 2018.
In a 2017 NZ House & Garden article, Blackler's "favourite item at the moment is a lock of Napoleon's hair".
Grigg said the item sold on August 4 attracted widespread interest, mainly from within New Zealand, and with multiple buyers over $15,000.
"Interest in Napoleon is as strong as ever," he said.
"To have such a personal item connecting to one of the greatest figures in world history was a privilege."
The winner of the auction wishes to stay anonymous, Grigg said.
In 1838, the lock was said to be sent by Novarre to a person named Mons-Riss in Saint-Gall, Switzerland with a note saying: "It is a great pleasure today, Monsieur Mons, to send you some hairs of the Emperor Napoleon which I took from his head after his death. That was May the 6th, 1821."
It's understood that Novarre took some 20 hair samples, with one authenticated lock being used in a 2000 forensic study to see whether Corsican-born Napoleon had been poisoned before his death, aged 51.
Several recent studies have agreed with the initial cause of death of stomach cancer, or peptic ulcer, rather than any nefarious means.