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The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

is a short story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes who in June 1900 helps Inspector Lestrade who is  investigating a series of burglaries in which someone is breaking plaster busts of Napoleon the first. The story was illustrated by Sidney Paget and published in the Strand Magazine  in May 1904. Strangely there was no illustration of the bust in these illustrations. In the course of the story, Inspector Lestrade tells Sherlock Holmes that the busts are plaster castings(hollow) copied from the original sculpture of Napoleon's head by the French sculptor Devine (Deveen).  Unfortunately there was no French sculptor by the name of Devine. This raises the question: What did the bust mentioned in the Adventure of the Six Napoleons look like.

Napoleon Bonaparte was very aware of the power of the effigy and exploited it fully both as a memorial and as propaganda in the profusion of medals, statuettes, busts and statues made by a variety of French sculptors under his direction.


Corbet sculpted a bust of the youthful Napoleon in 1798 with long hair.

Corbet's Napoleon

Chaudet's bust in 1805 was chosen as the official effigy because it conveyed a sense of imperial majesty and  was a good likeness.

Chaudet's bust


Houdon's bust in 1806 and again in 1808 of Napoleon was an excellent likeness but did not convey a sense of imperial majesty to Napoleon.

Houdon 1806

Houdon 1808

On the other hand, Bosio's portrait in 1810 was too imperial for Napoleon and idealized.

as was Thorvolsen's posthoumous portrait in 1830 and Ramey in 1813.



Canova's bust is the most neoclassical which accentuated the "Caesarean" character of Napoleon.



The most famous pose familiar to us today of Napoleon with his hat on and his hand in his vest wasn't represented in sculpture until 1833 by Emile Suerre in his bronze statue. In the late 19th century many busts were made with these elements but all were posthoumous. In the Borgia Pearl , a 1940's movie based loosely on the Six Napoleons, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson refers to the bust as the little corporal, a reference to this particular representation by Seurre of Napoleon.

Emile Suerre's statue


The bust falsely attributed to Devine was most likely any of the following: Bosio, Chaudet, Houdon or Canova.




The wax busts of Sherlock Holmes