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Napoleon’s Talisman

By Randy Jensen

Editor’s Note: This article was updated in November 2010. The update can be seen at: The Talisman of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Talisman is up for auction.  For information regarding the auction go to

For a better view of the images, click on them.

“The Napoleon Talisman”

As a means of introducing this interesting and complex piece, l shall first present my conclusion; namely, that this sculpted and jeweled piece of artwork is a “talisman” or “good luck charm” as we might call it today.  It was created by Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous Emperor of the French.  Napoleon spent two years planning the intricate design of the jewels that compose the base of this sphinx.  The jewels are arranged in a secret code that reflects Napoleon’s love for his wife, Josephine, and his successful military and political career.

Decoding the Sphinx

This clear quartz crystal sphinx sets upon a silver base containing 114 precious stones.  These stones are arranged in a specific way to produce an ancient code.  The key to unlocking the code of this artifact are the four patterns of rubies.  There are two hinged panels on the silver base below the sphinx, one on either side.  Each panel contains a pattern of rubies that are positioned on either side of a vertical row of four peridots.  This makes four patterns of rubies.  Three of the patterns have 21 rubies but the fourth pattern has what appears to be a missing ruby.  But instead of having 20 rubies in this pattern as you would expect, it also has 21 rubies just like the other patterns.  Upon close examination, it is evident that the empty hole never held a ruby at all.  The metal is not crafted to hold a stone.  It was intentionally left blank.

This pattern of 21 rubies and a blank hole correlates perfectly to the ancient Egyptian Tarot code.  This Tarot code had its genesis in the Egyptian mystery schools of approximately 1500 BC.  The Tarot code was based on a numbered system of 21 pictorial cards and a blank card that covertly recorded the ancient knowledge of the Egyptian mystery schools on an ordinary deck of “playing cards.”  Each card was numbered and themed (“4” = Emperor, “6” = love, “13” = death, etc.) and, further, each card had symbols that represented different esoteric information that could convey very specific meanings to the initiate who understood the system.  It was not until the 1700s in France, that information about this ancient system of preserving esoteric knowledge was published by several notable researchers.[1]

There is a remarkable complexity to the intricate patterns of the stones and each pattern has meaning.  The pattern of four stones repeats exactly 21 times, the same as the number of pictorial cards in a Tarot deck.    “Four”, as stated previously, stood specifically for “Emperor” in the Tarot coding.[2]  There are four patterns of rubies; the rubies are arranged mostly in rows of four across; there are four vertical peridots on each side; there are four sapphires aligned along each side of the front; and there are four larger sapphires with the rest being significantly smaller.  This pattern of “four” (Emperor) is the dominant coding within the jeweled sphinx.

“The missing ruby in the left panel of rubies is the key to unlocking the secret code.”

There are several examples of coded jewelry commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte,[3]  the ruler of France in the early 1800s.  In these pieces, Napoleon coded his initials, “NB,” into the design.  Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, used her initials “JB,” on many of her personal items.[4]   This Crystal Sphinx has both Napoleon Bonaparte’s and Josephine Bonaparte’s initials coded into the design.  “Josephine” is actually coded into the design twice: first, in a cryptogram within the sphinx itself where “her” headdress has “ten” indentations or folds, with the tenth letter of the alphabet being “J”, for “Josephine.”   Additionally, the body of the sphinx has “three” ribs showing on each side: “three” being the Tarot code for “Empress.”  So the sculpted sphinx reveals “Empress Josephine”.

Secondly, the shingles that run along the front edge of the silver base as you are looking directly at the face and into the eyes of “Josephine” as the Sphinx also reveal a cipher.  Here, the design of the shingles forms a half circle—a feminine symbol—again, in a cryptogram, with ten shingles for “J.”  Additionally, there are two shingles facing forward that are not part of the semi-circle, one on each side.  “Two” is for the second letter of the alphabet, “B” for “Bonaparte”.  On each side of the base are “three” remaining, but connected shingles.  Again, “three” is the Tarot coding for “Empress”.   Thus, the coding of the shingles reveals “Empress Josephine Bonaparte.”

Overall, there are 114 precious stones plus the quartz crystal sphinx.  This can be expressed as “114 +1”.  The centered “14” represents the 14th letter of the alphabet, “N” for Napoleon.   There is a “1” on either side of the “14”; 1+1 is “2” for the second letter of the alphabet, “B” for “Bonaparte.”  Thus, the sum of all the jewels in this work of art is coded to reflect “Napoleon Bonaparte”.  This is the same pattern of name coding as Josephine’s code, which has ten, centered shingles (“J” for “Josephine”) and an additional shingle on each side (“B” for “Bonaparte”).

“The shingles below the sphinx reveal the name of Empress Josephine Bonaparte.”

Napoleon’s favorite color was green[5] and his birthstone (August) was the green peridot.   Peridots were first mined in Egypt, on the island of Zeberget.  The vertical alignment of the four peridots rising to the underside of the sphinx (where a small circular attachment ring is located) can be interpreted as a phallic symbol showcasing “Emperor” Napoleon’s amorous feelings for Josephine, embodied by the sphinx.   The green peridots are surrounded by red rubies.  Red is a symbol of passion and love as well as being another possible connection to Josephine as she originally went by the name of “Rose”.  Napoleon preferred her middle name “Josephine” which she used after their 1796 marriage.

The “three” side shingles are in very close proximity to the “four” sapphires followed by “six” trailing sapphires.  Again, this is Tarot coding for “Empress”, “Emperor”, and “Lovers”.  The right rear ruby pattern has “three” rubies across instead of four like the other three patterns.  This “Empress” pattern has eight vertical rows of rubies that in the Tarot represent the female figure of “Justice”, who is seated upon a throne.  This card contains the reminder that a man’s or woman’s actions can be the cause of their own undoing.[6]  Also, “Three” (Empress) repeats four times within the arrangement of rubies indicating that the “Empress” is governed by the “Emperor.”

The other three “Emperor” ruby patterns have seven vertical rows that correspond to the Tarot “Chariot” representing the victorious warrior, which certainly Napoleon was at this time.  There are also two pearls; “two” was the code for “Divine Wisdom”.  Thus the saying, “Pearls of Wisdom” is symbolized here.  There are a total of “ten” sapphires on each side of the base, forming a partial circle directly below the sphinx; “ten” was coding for the “Wheel of Fate” which, in the Tarot deck, was depicted as a position directly below a recumbent sphinx.  This is a particularly striking Tarot coding with both the shape of the “wheel,” and the location of it under a reposing sphinx both accurately represented by the position of the sapphires and the crystal sphinx.

Composition of the Sphinx

The sphinx of Josephine is composed of clear quartz or “rock” crystal.  The beautiful, translucent qualities of clear rock crystal have been highly prized over the centuries, especially in the East.  This most rare variety of crystal is formed over many years by water and the minerals in the water, just as our own bodies are formed by some 70% water as well as minerals.  It is more than interesting to note the connection between Josephine composed of water and minerals and the sphinx composed of crystallized water and minerals.  This is a brilliant choice of material by Napoleon for the “Josephine” sphinx.  Additionally, water has been shown to be able to be “programmed” by our thoughts,[7] another great quality for a “good luck” or “love” talisman.  Crystal, of course, also has a natural vibration, just like the human body.  This characteristic has made it a valuable material in modern electronics.

The Josephine sphinx sits on a base of silver.  Silver has been long associated with health and healing because of its strong anti-microbial and anti-bacterial qualities.  This is another good association for a “good luck charm.”  The silver base features a fleur-de-lis pattern.  The fleur-de-lis is the symbol for a water-rose or lily representing the ongoing, regenerative nature of life.  This symbol had been used by the French monarchy since at least the time of Charles the Second in 869 whose scepter had terminated in a fleur-de-lis.  This fleur-de-lis pattern signified royal property and was used on the French coat of arms against a blue background.  The “blue” background signified the water in which the lily grew.  Significantly, there are ten blue sapphires on each side of the silver base that is marked with the fleur-de-lis.

Symbolism of the Sphinx

The distinctly Egyptian symbolism of the sphinx is, on the surface, one of ancient mystery—combining the body of a lion and the head of a human.  Yet the sphinx represents several distinct things: wisdom and strength, life and death, and the duality inherent in our world.  The human head represents the species in our realm with the most “intellect” and the lion represents the creature with the most “power,” the “King of the Jungle.”  Melded together, this symbolism of “wisdom and strength,” represents an unbeatable military combination (currently, the U.S. Army Military Intelligence division uses the sphinx as their official emblem).  The powerful lion, capable of killing in an instant, also symbolized “death” while a woman, with her procreative potential, symbolized “life.”  Thus the sphinx, as a symbol of power, represented control over both “life and death” just as Napoleon, as a military commander, frequently exercised his control over both life and death.  The duality of the sphinx parallels the duality of our world:  the human and the divine, the good and the evil, and our everyday choices that create the direction of our very existence.  Additionally, Napoleon’s astrological sign was Leo the lion, and in this sculpted sphinx, we have Napoleon’s symbolic lion body merging with Josephine’s breast and head representing Napoleon’s passion and love for his future Empress.[8]

“The relationship and positioning of the 114 jewels reveal the secret Tarot coding.”

Napoleon in Egypt

Napoleon had long made Egypt a subject of his study[9] and in 1798 at the age of 28, he was not only France’s top general, but he had also been elected to membership in the prestigious National Institute, the foremost scientific society in France, and was a Master of a Rosicrucian Order jurisdiction in Paris as well as a member of the Freemasons.[10]   Indeed, the side panels on the base of the sphinx are hinged so that they may be raised to reveal the shape of a “red cross” when viewed from above.  This red cross represented the Rosicrucians whose name means “the Brotherhood of the Red Cross”, a secret society (hence the “secret” raised panels) of which Napoleon was a prominent member (and whose history can be traced back to the Knights Templar who also used the symbol of a large red cross on their tunics).

It was at this time that Napoleon convinced France’s ruling body not to attempt the extremely risky invasion of Britain that they wanted, but rather to go to Egypt to cut off Britain’s vital supply line to India, their most prized possession.  With a dual agenda, Napoleon set sail in May of 1798 for Egypt on this “military” expedition with 500 civilians including over 160 scholars and scientists.

Egypt was a land of mystery; little explored by the Western world and even less understood.  In stark contrast, the 18th century in France was an age of intellectual enlightenment with luminaries including the Count of St. Germain who spoke 11 languages with total fluency,[11] Jean-Baptiste Alliette or Etteilla (real last name backwards) as he was known, who declared that the Tarot cards contained the secrets of all the wisdom of the ancients,[12] Count Cagliostro who introduced his Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry in Paris in 1777, and Court de Gebelin who published Le Monde Primitif claiming Egyptian origin of the Tarot as a book of wisdom in 1781.  De Gebelin also wrote that “Tarot” was an abbreviation for “The Book of Thoth” and meant “Royal Road to Wisdom”.[13]   With the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 and the ultimate fall of the French monarchy, the intellectual climate was ripe for Napoleon Bonaparte to uncover the arcane knowledge that was waiting to be discovered in Egypt.

During the course of his year in Egypt, Napoleon and his team of scholars and scientists discovered the Rosetta Stone, made extensive studies of the ancient architecture and hieroglyphics, and generally recorded all aspects of Egyptian life, past and present.  Napoleon spent time alone inside the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid and with the Sphinx.  Years later, Jean Leon Gerome captured one of these iconic moments with his famous painting “Napoleon and the Sphinx.”   These studies and their subsequent elaborate publication[14] are the basis of modern Egyptology.  The “Empire Style” of art and architecture which would dominate Europe during Napoleon’s rule and for years after he was gone would have its beginnings at this time in Egypt.[15]  Napoleon would later remark to Madame de Remusat that the years 1798-99 were the best of his life.[16]

The Creation of Napoleon’s Sphinx

When Napoleon returned to France in 1799, he assumed provisional control of the government.  He would crown himself Emperor in 1804 which is year AN 13 in the French calendar of the time, meaning the 13th year of the new French Constitution (another Tarot-significant number: “13” or “death”—meaning “death” to the old regime and rebirth of the new Empire; the same symbolism used earlier by the Masons in the United States with their “13” original colonies alluding to the “death” of the old English rule and rebirth of the new republic).   This is the time frame (1800-1804) for when Napoleon commissioned the making of this crystal sphinx.

The sculptor of the crystal sphinx was most likely Antonio Canova, the famed Italian sculptor (1757-1822).  Napoleon brought Canova to Paris in 1802 to do several pieces of sculpture including the famous “Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker” as well as busts of his mother and sister.  Canova is known to have sculpted in quartz crystal.  Two small busts of clear quartz crystal, similar in size to the sphinx, were done by Canova in the mid-1790s, and are on display in the Louvre in Paris, France.  Jean-Antoine Houdon is known to have done one bust of Napoleon in 1800.  He later sculpted another bust of Napoleon in 1806.  Houdon was famous for creating a distinctive look to his sculpted eyes (using a small hole in the pupil of the eye— which the sphinx has).   This technique was also used by some of his students and other contemporaries.

The sphinx likely had design input from fellow Mason Dominique Vivant Denon[17] who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt.  Denon would be appointed by Napoleon to head the new “Musee Napoleon”, which later transitioned into what is known today as the Louvre.  The famous designers Percier and Fontaine may also have had a hand in the layout of the piece as well.

“This cone was crimped to perhaps hold a lock of Josephine’s hair.”

Napoleonic Items Related to the Sphinx

The Pavillion Josephine in the Parc de l’Orangerie in Strasbourg, France has a female sphinx in a recumbent position also commissioned during Napoleon’s reign that has striking similarities to this crystal sphinx.

It is also very interesting to note that the sword that Napoleon commissioned on his return from Egypt had a quite unusual and unique design.  There was a piece of clear quartz crystal inlaid into the hilt that extended from the sword’s blade side to the sword’s grip side.

Use of the Sphinx Talisman

There is a cone at the tail end of the silver base of the sphinx that is held on by a small screw.  The cone is designed to hold an object by slightly crimping the metal of the cone.  From what is already known, it would be logical to speculate that this cone held a lock of Josephine’s hair.

A chain most likely attached to the circular ring on the underside of the sphinx in the manner that a modern pocket watch is attached both to the watch itself as well as to the pocket or belt of the wearer in order for the chain to prevent the watch from being damaged if it is dropped.  The sphinx also has two small pinholes in the top.  This would have provided attachment positions for a loop to use as a handle so the sphinx could be held in its upright position and easily viewed.

Roots of the Talisman

The word “talisman” has its roots in the Arabic “tilasm” and the Greek “talein” which both translate to “initiation into the mysteries.”  Very appropriate considering the Tarot coding of this particular talisman!  Many kings and queens had a favorite talisman that they relied upon for good fortune.  So enamored was Napoleon of his talisman that, in the summer of 1804, he gifted Josephine with a talisman of her own.  Josephine had been visiting Aix-la Chapelle to take the waters and to visit the tomb of Charlemagne (the legendary French king who died in 814).  When Napoleon joined her, he bestowed on her several relics from the tomb including Charlemagne’s Sapphire talisman which contained 49 jewels and, as legend had it, was responsible for Charlemagne’s success as a ruler of France and for his successful relationship with his wife.  Josephine wore Charlemagne’s talisman at her coronation later that year.

“A handle could be attached to the pinholes at the top of the crystal sphinx.”

Good Luck of theTalisman

Indeed this talisman did bring Napoleon good luck.  With Josephine at his side, Napoleon became the most influential figure in European history.  He was a ruler of enormous power and wealth who controlled nearly all of continental Europe.  Not since the Caesars of Rome had the world seen one man control so much.  His relationship with Josephine was legendary as well, and their love story has become an iconic part of our culture.  This talisman was Napoleon’s highly personal connection to Josephine at those times when they were apart.

Loss of theTalisman

It is possible that the Crystal Sphinx was lost in the battle of Waterloo.  During Napoleon’s hasty retreat from the battlefield, his abandoned personal carriage was captured in Genappe by a Prussian major.  Many of the diamonds captured became part of King Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia’s crown jewels.  Another scenario centers on the fact that Napoleon had appointed his brother, Louis, and Josephine’s daughter, Hortense, as the King and Queen of the Netherlands.  And it is known that Hortense had acquired some of her mother’s jewelry before she abdicated the throne in the Netherlands.  It is possible that with Napoleon’s divorce of Josephine and his remarriage, he may have gifted Hortense with the crystal sphinx.  In any case, the Crystal Sphinx was unearthed in Noordwijk, Netherlands in the 1940s[18] and has remained in private hands since that time.


From the tour de force of intricate sculpture by Antonio Canova to the complex array of jewels in a secret code, this most personal talisman of Napoleon Bonaparte truly reflects this unique man and his world in grand Empire style.


Abbott, John S. C.  Confidential Correspondence of the Emperor Napoleon and the Empress Josephine   New York: Mason Brothers  1858

Al-Jabarti.  Al-Jabarti’s Chronicle of the First Seven Months of the French Occupation of Egypt June-December 1798   Princeton, New Jersey: Markus Weiner Publishers  2004

Bonaparte, Napoleon and J. Christopher Herold.  Mind of Napoleon: A Selection of his Written and Spoken Words  New York: Columbia University Press  1955

Bonaparte, Napoleon.  Napoleon’s Memoirs  Two Volumes  Great Britain: The Golden Cockerel Press  1945

Bourrienne, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de.  Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte  Four Volumes       New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons  1912

Bushby, Tony.  The Secret in the Bible  Palo Alto, California: Stanford Publishing Group/Joshua Books  2003

Cole, Juan.  Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East  New York: Palgrave Macmillan  2007

Deschamps, Madeleine.  Empire  New York: Abbeville Press  1994

Gebelin, Antoine Court de.  Le Monde Primitif  Paris: l’Auteur  1779

Gengembre, Gerard.  Napoleon: The Immortal Emperor  New York: The Vendome Press  2003

Hall, Manley P.  The Secret Teachings of All Ages  Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc.  1988

Hart, Charles Henry and Edward Biddle.  Memoirs of the Life and Works of Jean Antoine Houdon: The Sculptor of Voltaire and of Washington  Philadelphia, Printed for the Authors  1911

Herold, J. Christopher.  Bonaparte in Egypt  New York: Harper & Row  1962

Hortense, Queen.  Memoirs of Queen Hortense  Two Volumes  New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation  1927

Huson, Paul.  Mystical Origins of the Tarot  Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books  2004

Johns, Christopher M. S.  Antonio Canova and the Politics of Patronage in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France   Berkeley,California: University of California Press  1998

Josephine, Consort.  Memoirs of Empress Josephine   New York: A. L. Fowle  1900

McLynn, Frank.  Napoleon  New York: Arcade Publishing, Inc.  2002

Nouvel-Kammerer, Odile.  Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style 1800-1815  New York: Abrams  2007

Pike, Albert.  Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry       Richmond Virginia: L. H. Jenkins  1927

Poulet, Anne L.  Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment  Chicago: University of Chicago Press  2004

Raulet, Sylvie.  Rock Crystal Treasures  New York: The Vendome Press  1999

Remusat, Madame de.  Memoirs of Empress Josephine  New York: P. F. Collier & Son  1910

Russell, Terence M.  The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon’s Travels with Napoleon’s Army  Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing  2005

Wasserman, James.  The Mystery Traditions  Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books  2005

Wasserman, James.  The Secrets of Masonic Washington  Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books  2008



[1] Hall, Manley P.  The Secret Teachings of All Ages  Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc.  1988  pages 129-130

[2] Hall, page 130; also Wasserman, James.  The Mystery Traditions  Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books  2005  pages 124-125 (pictures the Marseilles Tarot Deck from 1748 France)

[3] These pieces of coded jewelry are pictured at HHUUwww.sentimentaljewelry.blogspot.comUUHH ; Napoleon also used Tarot coding in a ceremonial collar he wore while serving as Master of a Rosicrucian Order jurisdiction in Paris.  See the collar at: ; the coding of “two”, “four”, and “eight” represents that Napoleon rules with Justice and Wisdom.  The connection between Tarot and the Rosicrucians is explored by Manly P. Hall in The Secret Teachings of All Ages.  On page 129, he states, “The Tarot is undoubtedly a vital element in Rosicrucian symbolism, possibly the very book of universal knowledge which the members of the order claimed to possess.”  As an interesting side note, Napoleon appointed his four brothers to prominent Masonic positions.

[4] DeLorme, Eleanor P.  Josephine as Patroness of the Arts  September 2002  Home and Garden Publications;collUU

[5] Schom, Alan.  Napoleon Bonaparte  New York: HarperCollins Publishers  1998  page 261

[6] Hall, page 131;  Wasserman, James.  Instructions for Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck  Stamford, Connecticut: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  1983  page 8

[7] Emoto, Masaru.  The Hidden Messages in Water  Hillsboro, Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing  2004

[8] Napoleon’s last words were “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine”.

[9] Bourrienne, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de.  Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte  Four Volumes New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons  1912  page 158

[10] Many of the founders of the United States, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were members of the Masonic Order.  It is very likely that Thomas Jefferson was also a Mason, though verifying documentation has never been found.  Jefferson had spent the years 1785-1789 as minister to France before he was President.  As President, Jefferson acquired the “Louisiana Purchase” from Napoleon in 1803.  Jefferson’s famous home, the Monticello, was coded with the same Tarot coding as the Sphinx.  As an example, the front of Jefferson’s home has six steps leading up to the porch supported by four large pillars.  “Six” is Tarot for “Love” and “four” is Tarot for “Emperor” or leader.  The rear has seven steps leading up to a porch with six pillars.  “Seven” is Tarot for “victorious warrior” and again, “six” is Tarot for “Love”.  Also, there are 13 total steps (even though the ground and floor heights are the same at the front and rear of the home!); “13” is Tarot for “Death”—death of the old regime (English rule) and hence, rebirth of the new—in this case the United States of America!  There were 13 original states in part because this was an important Masonic symbol.  The highest level of Masonry is the 33rd degree and Jefferson’s Monticello is 33 yards wide.  Jefferson is saying to the astute visitor of his home that here resides a man with vast knowledge, a victorious leader who loves his home and country and who has helped to “birth” or create a new nation.

[11] Hall, page 199

[12] Huson, Paul.  Mystical Origins of the Tarot  Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books  2004    page 55

[13] Gebelin, Antoine Court de.  Le Monde Primitif  Paris: l’Auteur  1779

[14] The massive Description de l’Egypte was published in 23 volumes between the years 1809-1828 by the French Government.

[15] Nouvel-Kammerer, Odile.  Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style 1800-1815    New York: Abrams  2007

[16] McLynn, Frank.  Napoleon  New York: Arcade Publishing, Inc.  2002  page 290

[17] Dominique Vivant Denon acted as Napoleon’s art advisor.  Marie-Etienne Nitot was Napoleon’s official jeweler.  His son, Francois Regnault Nitot, produced several other pieces of coded, “acrostic” jewelry for Napoleon.

[18] Pieter Hegeman of Lancaster, Pennsylvania states that his deceased father dug this item up at a depth of approximately 15 feet in Noordwijk, Netherlands just after WWII.  The Waterloo Battlefield is a little over 120 miles from Noordwijk; the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, occupied by Louis Napoleon and Hortense from 1808-1810, is about four miles from Noordwijk.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2010