It has been described as the ‘sale of the century’, an auction of more than 1,300 pieces of 17th-20th century furniture, art, jewelry and home decor from one of the world’s largest mansions. from Paris.
The provenance of the objects reads like a parchment through the history of European aristocracy: a sofa belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; a silver soup tureen offered by Catherine the Great to her lover Count Orlov; candelabra would have belonged to Marie-Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.
Until recently, the vast collection decorated the Hôtel Lambert, a private mansion on the Île Saint-Louis, in the center of Paris, a stone’s throw from Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The property was built in the early 1640s by royal architect Louis Le Vau, who designed the Palace of Versailles, and was listed as a historic monument in 1862.
Among its owners are Polish Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski – who invited composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Eugène Delacroix and Guy and Marie-Hélène Rothschild to stay.
The mansion’s gilded rooms hosted literary salons attended by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire and in its society heyday was the setting for glittering parties attended by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Yves Saint Laurent, Cecil Beaton, Salvador Dali, Brigitte Bardot and an array of European royals.
In 2007, the Hôtel Lambert, whose Hercules gallery was painted by the decorator of Versailles Charles Le Brun, was acquired by the Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani who carried out a major renovation of 120 million euros euros (£100m) and filled it with his extensive personal collection. works of art and decoration. It is this collection that is now offered for sale by Sotheby’s in October.
Mario Tavella, a historical collections expert who oversees the auction, said he was blown away when he first entered the Hotel Lambert.
“It is the most beautiful private property in Paris and probably in France and one of the most beautiful residences in the world. It was completely overwhelming to see the overall quality of each piece inside. It was a fascinating and magical experience,” Tavella said.
“The ensemble forms the largest collection of high-quality classical works of art, furniture, old master paintings and antique jewelery ever offered for sale in France.”
Other items have been attributed to members of the French royal family, including Marie-Antoinette, or come from the collections of fashion icons such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Hubert de Givenchy.
The collection was removed from the Hôtel Lambert following the sale of the mansion to French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, a telecoms billionaire, for an estimated 200 million euros – a record for a Parisian property transaction. Niel should establish a cultural foundation at the mansion.
The Hôtel Lambert: a Princely Collection sale will take place over several days in October.
Tavella said the auction is expected to fetch more than previous sales of historic collections, including those from the Royal House of Hanover in 2005 which raised $50m (£42m) and the collections of Lily and Edmond Safra in 2005 and 2011 which raised $100 million. .
“It really is an extraordinary collection, the sale of which takes place once every 100 years,” Tavella added.