It has been described as the “sale of the century”, an auction of more than 1,300 pieces of 17th to 20th-century furniture, art, jewels and interior decoration from one of Paris’s grandest mansions.

The lavish interior of the Hotel Lambert, by interior designer Alberto Pinto, who in many rooms followed in the sumptuous style originally envisaged and conceived by Renzo Mongiardino
The lavish interior of the Hotel Lambert, by interior designer Alberto Pinto, who in many rooms followed in the sumptuous style originally envisaged and conceived by Renzo Mongiardino Photograph: c/o Sotheby’s

The provenance of 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; candelabras believed to belong to Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress.

A pair of gilt-bronze mounted blanc de Chine porcelain three-light à cigognes candelabra, Louis XV, circa 1750 (est. €200,000-400,000) - likely belonging to Madame de Pompadour
A pair of gilt-bronze mounted blanc de Chine porcelain three-light à cigognes candelabra, Louis XV, circa 1750 (est €200,000-400,000) – likely belonging to Madame de Pompadour. Photograph: Sotheby’s

Until recently, the vast collection decorated 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 royal architect Louis Le Vau, who designed the Palais de Versailles, and was listed as an historical monument in 1862

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

The mansion’s gilded rooms have played host to 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.

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

In 2007, the Hôtel Lambert, whose Hercules Gallery was painted by Versailles decorator Charles Le Brun, was acquired by Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani who carried out an extensive €120m renovation and filled it with his extensive personal collection of art and decorative works. It is this collection now being offered for sale by Sotheby’s in October.

Mario Tavella, who is overseeing the auction and is an expert on historical collections, said he was blown away when he first entered the Hôtel Lambert.

A pair of Louis XVI gilt & blue-patinated bronze candelabra, circa 1784-1786, attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère (est. €300,000-500,000)- by repute a royal comission for Marie-Antoinette
A pair of Louis XVI gilt & blue-patinated bronze candelabra, circa 1784-1786, attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère (est €300,000-500,000)- by repute a royal comission for Marie-Antoinette Photograph: Florian Perlot pour Art Digital/Sotheby’s

“It is the most beautiful property in private hands in Paris and probably in France and one of the loveliest residences in the world. It was completely overwhelming to see the overall quality of every single piece in the interior. It was a mesmerising and magical experience,” Tavella said.

“The ensemble forms the biggest collection of high-quality classical works of art, furniture, old master paintings and antique jewels ever offered for sale in France.”

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

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

The collection was removed from the Hotel Lambert following the mansion’s sale to French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, a telecoms billionaire, for an estimated €200m(£170m) – a record for a Paris property transaction. Niel is expected to 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 was expected to raise more than previous sales of historic collections, including those from the Royal House of Hanover in 2005 that raised $50m and the Collections of Lily and Edmond Safra in 2005 and 2011 that raised $100m.

“It really is an extraordinary collection, the sale of which happens once every 100 years,” he added.

Source: The Guardian