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HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani Is All Set To Auction Paris’s Hôtel Lambert’s Decorative Collections

The Grand Salon

When I first visited the Hôtel Lambert, I was overwhelmed by so many pieces stirring the senses,” confesses Mario Tavella, president of Sotheby’s France and chairman of Sotheby’s Europe. “Rather than homing in on single pieces, I was most struck by the complete collections within the collections — such as the group of Limoges enamels, gilt bronze porcelain-mounted vases, and of course the silver. It really requires a deep knowledge, a sophisticated aesthetic, and perhaps, most importantly, a good deal of patience to build such a series of extensive groups.” In October, an unprecedented Sotheby’s auction of over 1,300 lots of furniture and art will offer a rare glimpse of the interiors and the treasures housed within. The sale of the interiors, anticipated to reach an excess of 50 million euros, property of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani –former owner of the Hôtel Lambert – and his immediate family, will support The Al Thani Collection Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance and promote art and culture.

Located in the heart of Paris, on the Île Saint-Louis, the Hôtel, Lambert is a tour de force in itself, brought to life by the masterminds behind Versailles: Louis Le Vau (one of King Louis XIV’s favorite architects) designed the property for financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert in the early 1640s. Charles Le Brun, painter of the ceilings of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, created a gallery in the house, whose rooms are also adorned with pieces by French classic painter Eustache Le Sueur.

Le Cabinet de L’Amour, Louis XV Commode attributed to BVRB I (possibly the greatest of all French furniture makers of the Louis XV period)

Following its acquisition in 2007 by HH Sheikh Al Thani, a major restoration was launched, with the objective of bringing the Hôtel Lambert back to its former glory under the supervision of chief architect Alain-Charles Perrot, who is now president of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. “The restoration was driven first and foremost by a love of France and a devotion to French heritage, paired with an incredible and exacting attention to detail befitting a building of such historic stature,” says Perrot. Listed as a historical monument in 1862, Hôtel Lambert was once home to Voltaire, the Polish Czartoryski princes, and the Rothschilds. It was the place Chopin liked to play piano the most, and hosted Princess Grace of Monaco and Elizabeth Taylor, among other personalities.

Inside the hotel, HH Sheikh Al Thani and his immediate family assembled an exceptional private collection of furniture, objects, and decor throughout their years of ownership (the Hôtel Lambert was sold last February to French billionaire Xavier Niel). The interiors took shape through a collaboration with world-renowned interior designer Alberto Pinto (1943-2012). “One of the biggest challenges with a project of this scale, where there is already such a rich history, is creating an atmosphere that stays true to the spirit of the house – without simply duplicating the decor that had come before,” says Pinto’s sister, Linda Pinto, who was also very involved in the project. “It is an important balance of respect and innovation, in order to breathe new life into such a spectacular space.”

The private drawing room, with a Louis XV Sèvres mounted porcelain table by BVRB

A true passion project, the transformation took over a decade to complete. “Before diving into something like this, we needed to undertake a lengthy period of detailed research on the history of the decor,” remembers Pinto. After this phase, a plan of action was defined, and the team started to acquire artworks and order specific elements such as the precious fabrics and custom furniture. “I remember Alberto was particularly pleased when he decided to create a special interior with the José María Sert screen, which previously belonged to Mademoiselle Chanel, replacing the 17th-century leather decor,” she says. “It resulted in a very intimate salon.” The overriding spirit that guided Alberto and his team throughout every step was excellence, quality, and originality. And the result speaks for itself. “The hallmark of the project was a tailor-made approach,” says Pinto. “At no point did we forget the great honor of working on a building that is so embedded in the history of Paris.”

To discover this group of works in avant-première, Sotheby’s has created immersive digital spaces. “Despite the Hôtel Lambert being a world-famous building, very few people have had the privilege of visiting it as it has always been a private residence,” says Tavella. “So, these immersive rooms almost function as a time capsule.” The experience involves simultaneously projecting some of the most iconic interiors of Hôtel Lambert on the four walls of a purpose-built space, bringing together almost 500 different shots of various angles. The result: when visitors to the Sotheby’s galleries in London, Hong Kong, Paris, and New York walk in, they can imagine what it would have been like to live in the sumptuous interiors of the residence.


The Kunstkammer showing the collection of silver gilt works of art

There is something for everyone,” says Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s chairman for the Middle East. “Even if at first glance the taste may seem classical, I challenge anyone to leaf through the many volumes of the catalog and not fall in love with an object that they would like to take home. There is an undeniable allure to buying a piece of the past, and with this collection, every item has been touched by history.” Many of the pieces were once owned by royalty, such as two sets of candelabra: one belonged to Madame de Pompadour, the other to Marie Antoinette. The Grand Dauphin, the Princess of Asturias, King George IV, aristocrats, celebrated collectors from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as many doyens of the fashion world, including Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld, and Lanvin are just a few of the famous names related to this collection. “The extremely high level of quality across a vast variety of objects is unique in this collection, which also respects and reflects the grandeur of the setting for which the collection was formed,” adds Gibbs.

“The very essence of the house – its grand frescoes, intricate wall paneling, and overall decoration – naturally command furnishings of the same quality and style,” says Tavella. “This is truly a collection like no other, bringing together an innate instinct for beauty with a profound and exhaustive knowledge of art history.”

The Gallery of Hercules, with the frescoed ceiling by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)

Among some of the highlights are examples of French furniture by André-Charles Boulle and Adam Weisweiler; a magnificent pair of Egyptian porphyry vases (circa 1680-1710); a sapphire and diamond fleur-de-lys brooch from the late 19th century, which is believed to have belonged to Princess Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma (1870-1899), wife of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (1861-1948); a tiara composed of seven diamond and gold elements (circa 1810-1820); and the type of jewels that by family tradition were given by the Prince Regent, later King George IV (1762-1830), to his mistress, Maria Fitzherbert. “If I had to pinpoint just one of my favorite lots, I think I would have a different answer every day from now until the auction,” Tavella smiles.

“Sotheby’s has been lucky enough to help tell the story of many of the key chapters of Hôtel Lambert’s illustrious history,” says Tavella. He concludes that with the sale of this extraordinary ensemble, he is certain the Hôtel Lambert will once again make its mark, not only on the international market, but also on the history of collecting at the highest level.

The Grand Salon, with a Louis XV gilt-bronze mounted celadon vase 

The vestibule, with a 17th-century Roman nocturnal clock

The Red Salon with the magnificent Dundas George III suite, by Thomas Chippendale, after a design by Robert Adam

Entrance to the Gallery of Hercules

Originally published in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

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