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In Paris, a historic 61-room mansion puts its treasures under the hammer

On an island in the heart of Paris stands a private residence with a history that reads like a roll-call of the City of Light itself. Voltaire shared trysts there with his lover, the Marquise du Châtelet. Chopin was a regular, as were Balzac and Delacroix. If the ceilings look a little familiar, perhaps it’s because the artist, Charles Le Brun, also painted the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

In the last century, the house passed through the hands of the Rothschilds; guests included Princess Grace of Monaco and Elizabeth Taylor. Yves Saint Laurent, Cecil Beaton, Salvador Dali and Brigitte Bardot were just a few of those invited to its legendary parties.

In 2007, Hôtel Lambert was sold by the Rothschilds to the Qatari Prince Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, who assembled a team to restore it. A restrained, light-touch updating is not what they did.

Instead, in a landmark £100m restoration, the residence was returned to its 1640s heyday, an almost mythical re-imagining of the high Rococo sensibilities of the Louis XIV era. This was done with such commitment, and filled with such fine examples of the period, that the result is a fantasy world of marble, gilt, braiding and ebony that may never be seen again in a private residence.

The project’s architect was Alain-Charles Perrot – now the current president of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. He describes the renovation as “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.” Interior design was by none other than Alberto Pinto – a goliath of 20th and early 21st-century interior design whose work lives on through the Pinto design agency he founded.

The landmark 61-room Hôtel Lambert formed a lavish backdrop for the private collection of Prince Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, which is now being auctioned by Sotheby's (Effect Magazine)
The landmark £100m restoration of the 61-room Hôtel Lambert private residence formed a lavish backdrop for the private collection of Prince Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, which is now being auctioned by Sotheby’s in Paris (Photo: Sotheby’s)

Prince Abdullah curated an extraordinary collection of furniture and art objects to be housed in the property, with treasures of the 17th and 18th centuries whose former owners include Catherine the Great, the Dauphin, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Following the recent sale of of sale to telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel (for an estimated €200m), the collection is being auctioned by Sotheby’s in Paris in October 2022.

Highlights from the collection include a pair of 17th-century Italian Porphyry Vases, estimated at €1M–€2M, a pair of Louis XIV marquetry pedestals by André-Charles Boulle delivered to Louis XIV’s son, the Grand Dauphin, at Versailles in 1684, and a pair of early George III giltwood armchairs, designed by Robert Adam and made by Thomas Chippendale – at the time, the most expensive suite Chippendale had supplied.

Tableware includes a silver tureen owned by Catherine the Great. the Duke & Duchess of Windsor’s Louis XV carved giltwood sofa, and candelabras belonging to Marie Antoinette.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Tina Onassis, Bal de Têtes, 1957, in Hôtel Lambert – Effect Magazine

The Italian designer Giambattista Valli describes Hôtel Lambert as “the kind of beauty that blows you away,” adding: “The pieces I saw there are so extraordinary, and they are going to continue to be extraordinary for centuries to come.”

The auction takes place over four days in October, and looks set to be one of the auction events of the decade.

Hôtel Lambert: Get the Look

There may only be one Hôtel Lambert, but the decadence of Louis XIV adds seasoning to interiors from Fifth Avenue apartments to Kensington townhouses. Make like the Sun King with these finds from Effetto:

Read more: Interiors | Antiques I Design | Interior Designers | Paris