S ince the 17th century, the Hôtel Lambert has always been at the heart of French culture and the uniquely Parisian style of entertaining. A glittering set of former residents, Emilie Marquess du Châtelet, the Princes Czartoryski family, the Baron de Rédé, the Rothschilds and His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani and his immediate family held legendary parties attended by a heady guestlist of impressive and distinguished diners. Volume IV, Les Arts de la table will present an outstanding selection of silver mainly French and English from the most famous silversmiths (Paul de Lamerie, Robert-Joseph Auguste, Paul Crespin, Duguay, Imlin, etc…), porcelain and glass that reflects this high art of hosting and dining.
Proceeds from the sale to support The Al Thani Collection Foundation.
Hôtel Lambert, Une Collection Princière
The Stendhal Syndrome
An Interview with Giambattista Valli
by James Reginato
From his childhood in Rome, Giambattista Valli inherited a singular taste for the art and elegance of palaces. An enthusiast of architecture and decorative arts who expresses romanticism through his sensuous and diaphanous designs, the couturier could only admire Sheikh Hamad’s lavish Hôtel Lambert collection. Their encounter proved decisive as they soon became friends.
What were your first impressions of the Hotel Lambert?
When I first arrived at Hotel Lambert, I felt that I was experiencing the Syndrome de Stendhal. [The Stendhal syndrome –after the experience documented by the 19th-century French author of the same name – is a psychosomatic condition involving a rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and hallucinations which occurs when an individual is exposed to objects, artwork or phenomena of a great beauty.] It was like an aesthetic shock. I was enchanted.
Hotel Lambert is surely one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever visited. It’s extraordinary in every way: its story, its arrangement, its location on the island, its beautiful garden… This private residence emanates an incredible energy.
How did you meet His Highness Sheikh Hamad?
We met a few years ago through common friends. He was fascinated by my creations and styles. We immediately clicked. He is not only extraordinary, but also very confident and cultivated. And he is so young and curious. I was captivated by his personality. My very dear friend Lee Radziwill would often quote Bernard Berenson, saying that there are two categories of people: those who enrich your life and those who impoverish it. His Highness is an undeniably enriching person. We are both very curious: curious of culture in general. I love his marvellous way of harmoniously commingling various cultures. He creates a kind of continuous interaction.
At Hôtel Lambert, you got the feeling that objects were constantly communicating among themselves, establishing relationships. On the first floor, there was a table full of Renaissance objects, but there were also small columns of Egyptian porphyry. It was stunning to see those objects combined in the setting of such a French-style mansion. His Highness has a remarkable gift for creating combinations that are surprising to say the least.
There are dialogs between objects?
Yes, and so did the colours, textures, lighting, flowers, lifestyle…. Everything was so perfect, yet so human and lively. The Hotel Lambert was a contemporary contemporary house, nothing was dusty. It was in the now. Everything may be museum quality, but it never felt like a museum. Everything was used like an everyday piece, in everyday life.
His Highness has an obsession with aesthetics, which is unique for someone so young. Sometimes you worry that an art form is going to die out. He establishes a beautiful bridge between the past and the future. These pieces are extraodinary, and they will remain extraordinary for centuries to come.
The sale will feature many items from “The Art of the Table.” Can you describe how they were used at Hotel Lambert?
Entertaining is the supreme art. I have never met anyone as generous as His Highness. He can’t help but to want to thrill his guests at every turn. He is so giving, everything must be perfect: the table, the lighting, the flowers, the fragrance, the art of the service by the personnel, and so on.
What I love the most about His Highness is the confident way he lives such an extraordinary life. To him, intense beauty is the norm, and he makes every guest feel comfortable with being in extraordinary surroundings.
He does that without pretention, without pretending. This is just his lifestyle, his way of sharing. He has no competition; he asserts no ostentation. He simply has an insatiable appetite for beauty.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Rome. After graduating from Central Saint Martin’s in London, I came to Paris 22 years ago, and I have been here ever since. I consider myself a Roman Parisian.
I take inspiration from just about everything: a person’s gesticulations, the way they move their hands or body. My latest couture show depicted the same woman at two different times in a 24-hour period. The first look was based on the jet-setters of the 1960s and 1970s with an Italian influence: a woman going out to Studio 54 with Andy Warhol.
I took inspiration from the tunics that Marella Agnelli and Lee Radziwill wore to Truman Capote’s Black and While Ball. The idea of getting ready: that moment of introspection when you’re getting ready to go out and you don’t know what is going to happen, but you feel a certain euphoria.
The other moment that I depicted was the morning of the next day, the idea of waking up in an English or French garden.
So the first part was extremely sleek, while the second part was quite the opposite: exuberant and profuse like a bouquet of flowers or a garden. The full show struck a balance, with each part complementing the other.