The contents of a Paris villa are auctioned off in a house clearance par excellence | Paris

It has been dubbed the ‘Auction of the Century’, an auction of more than 1,300 pieces of furniture, artwork, jewels and interior decorations from the 17th to the 20th centuries from one of Paris’ most sumptuous mansions.

The lavish interiors of the Hôtel Lambert, designed by interior designer Alberto Pinto, who in many spaces followed the sumptuous style originally planned and conceived by Renzo Mongiardino. Photo: Sotheby’s

The provenance of the items reads like a scroll through the history of European aristocracy: a sofa belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; a silver tureen given by Catherine the Great to her lover Count Orlov; Candelabra believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.

A pair of three-light à cigognes gilt bronze porcelain candelabra, Louis XV, circa 1750 (estimate €200,000-400,000) - probably from the possession of Madame de Pompadour
A pair of gilt bronze porcelain three flames at cigognes Candelabra, Louis XV, ca. 1750 (estimated €200,000-400,000) – probably belonged to Madame de Pompadour. Photo: Sotheby’s

Until recently, the extensive collection adorned the Hôtel Lambert, a private mansion on the Ile Saint-Louis in central Paris, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame Cathedral.

The property was built in the early 1640s by the royal architect Louis Le Vau, who designed the Palais de Versailles, and was listed as a Historic Monument in 1862

Its owners included Polish Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski – who invited composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Eugène Delacroix, and Guy and Marie-Hélène Rothschild to stay.

The gilded rooms of the mansion played host to literary salons attended by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, and in the heyday of his society it was the scene of glittering parties attended by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Yves Saint Laurent, Cecil Beaton , Salvador Dali and Brigitte Bardot attended and a number of European royals.

Douce Francois and Brigitte Bardot, at the Bal Oriental, 1969
Douce Francois and Brigitte Bardot in Bal Oriental 1969. Photo: Sotheby’s

In 2007, the Hôtel Lambert, whose Hercules gallery was painted by Versailles decorator Charles Le Brun, was acquired by the Qatari King Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, who undertook a major €120 million (£100 million) refurbishment and renovated it with his extensive personal collection filled with art and decorative works. This very collection will now be offered for sale by Sotheby’s in October.

Mario Tavella, a historical collections expert overseeing the auction, said he was overwhelmed when he first entered the Hôtel Lambert.

A pair of Louis XVI candelabra in gilt and blue patinated bronze, ca. 1784-1786, attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère (estimated €300,000-500,000) - said to be a royal commission for Marie Antoinette
A pair of Louis XVI style gilt and blue patinated bronze candelabra, circa 1784-1786, attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère (estimated €300,000-500,000) – said to be a royal commission for Marie Antoinette. Photo: Florian Perlot for Art Digital/Sotheby’s

“It is the finest privately owned property in Paris and probably in France and one of the finest residences in the world. It was absolutely mind blowing to see the overall quality of every single piece in the interior. It was a mesmerizing and magical experience,” said Tavella.

“The ensemble forms the largest collection of high quality classical artworks, furniture, old master paintings and antique jewels ever put up for sale in France.”

Other items have been attributed to French royalty such as Marie Antoinette or come from collections by fashion icons such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Hubert de Givenchy.

Madame Leonora Cornett, Cecil Beaton and Yves Saint Laurent at the Hôtel Lambert.
Madame Leonora Cornett, Cecil Beaton and Yves Saint Laurent at the Hôtel Lambert. Photo: André Ostier/Sotheby’s

The collection was removed from Hôtel Lambert after the mansion was sold to French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, a telecoms billionaire, for an estimated €200 million – a record for a real estate transaction in Paris. Niel is expected to start a cultural foundation at the mansion.

The Hôtel Lambert: Sale of a Princely Collection takes place over several days in October.

Tavella said the auction is expected to fetch more than previous sales of historical collections, including the Royal House of Hanover in 2005, which fetched $50 million (£42 million), and the Lily and Edmond Safra collections in 2005 and 2005 2011, which grossed $100 million.

“It’s really an exceptional collection that sells once every 100 years,” Tavella added.

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