F rom 4–14 October, Sotheby's is delighted to present a private collection from a Parisian hôtel particulier, a designated historical monument. The sale will feature drawings, paintings, furniture, objets d'art, engravings, books and manuscripts.
Here, Christian Prévost-Marcilhacy, honorary Inspector General of Historical Monuments, tells us about this unique 18th century place in the heart of Paris whose restoration was made possible thanks to the owners of the house, great collectors and bibliophiles and also Christian's close friends.
"The owners, Doctor L. and his wife, were best friends with both me and my wife, at whose house they had met. After their marriage they had moved into an apartment in a building dating from the beginning of the previous century. It was comfortable but quite ordinary and they had nevertheless arranged it with taste.
When, in the course of my professional duties, I heard that the heirs of the ambassador André d'Ormesson had put up for sale the piano nobile of the Hôtel de Ségur, which although in a rather tired state, still had its sumptuous decorations from the Empire period, I immediately thought of informing my friends, thinking only of protecting this heritage, since the interior decoration was classified as a Monument Historique.
“To convince them, I guaranteed that a restoration of this magical place, done as it should be, would restore it to its original beauty. And I evoked its most famous occupant, woman of the Enlightenment, the Princess of Salm-Dyck whose Salon, at the beginning of the 19th century, rivalled that of Madame de Staël”
My friends entrusted the restoration of the place to the architect Michel Desbrosses, a long time collaborator of Emilio Terry, but if we can say, as a poet might, that "the fruits have fulfilled the promise of the flowers", we must add that they continued to contribute to the beauty of the place they lived in for more than fifty years, with furniture, objets d'art and paintings, chosen with a perfect taste that made us think they had always been there.
The bust of the Princess of Salm by Houdon, the miraculously recovered album amicorum, the exceptional Gobelins tapestry of the Elements, depicting fire, after Charles Lebrun, the furniture of the Maréchal Soult all speak for themselves, but a word must be said about Doctor L.'s passion for books that, as a worthy successor of Henri Mondor, he collected with talent.
Their joint sale increases their importance. Anxious to preserve this prestigious setting and its contents, they did not hesitate to entrust a representative of the Service des Monuments Historiques with the restoration of the two marvellous ceilings that can be attributed to Antoine Laurent Thomas Vaudoyer and Jean Baptiste Lagrenée. The result is spectacular. We can only hope that the future owners of this exceptional place and all that has accompanied it so well for nearly five decades will consider themselves as links in a chain for their preservation."
If you want to read more about Constance de Salm and the Hôtel de Salm-Dick :
P. Jullian, 150 ans après la princesse de Salm, Connaissance des Arts, juin 1976
C. Frégnac, Hôtel de Salm-Dick in Belles Demeures de Paris, Paris, 1977
J-F. Lemaire, Chez Constance de Salm, L’Objet d’Art, janvier 1988
A. Forray-Carlier et B. Pons, Hôtel de Ségur puis de Salm-Dick, in Le faubourg Saint-Germain, La Rue du Bac, 1990, Alençon
C. de Nicolay-Mazery, Constance de Salm et son salon littéraire in Grandes Demeures Françaises, Traditions d’élégance, 2014