The façade of the Ritz hotel in Paris. Image: Vincent Leroux.
When it comes to Europe’s grand-dame hotels, none are quite as iconic as the Ritz Paris. The Ritz Paris has been synonymous with refined luxury and timeless glamour for over 100 years. Opened in 1898 by Swiss entrepreneur Cesar Ritz the Ritz has served as the backdrop to several key moments in French history. The Nazis requisitioned it during World War II but had cleared out by the time Ernest Hemingway burst in with a group of Resistance fighters on August 25, 1944, gun in hand, to ‘personally liberate’ it. Realising he was too late Hemingway took to the bar where he is said to have run up a tab for 51 dry Martinis. In 1997, tragedy befell the hotel when Britain’s Princess Diana, who had been staying there, was killed in a car accident in a Paris tunnel while being pursued by paparazzi. The hotel made global headlines again in January, when robbers armed with guns and hatchets ransacked jewellery shops on the ground floor, making off with over four million euros ($4.9 million) in gems and watches.
The Ritz decided to sell the pieces when it reopened in June 2016 after four years of a fittingly glamorous top-to-bottom renovation. After being closed for over 4 years, the Ritz has long been a favorite of visitors to the City of Light, hosting everyone from Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan and Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in its opulent rooms and suites.
Now, the hotel’s fans have a chance to own a piece of Ritz history – 3,500 lots consisting of 10,000 pieces of furniture and decorative objects from the property will be up for auction on the Champs Élysées this April. Organized by Artcurial – the firm that was also behind the sales of historic pieces from pre-renovation Hôtel de Crillon and the Plaza Athénée – the Ritz Paris auction will be held from April 17 through 21.
Price estimates run from 100 euros for a pair of tablecloths to 10,000 euros for a pair of nymph sculptures carrying bronze candelabras that used to decorate the lobby. Each lot in the auction’s extensive catalogue has been meticulously restored, inventoried, and catalogued by a team of 15 experts from Artcurial, who went to great lengths to ensure that every piece bearing the Ritz Paris insignia was returned to its former glory before heading to the auction block.
A cross section of the Ritz Paris’ illustrious history, the auction includes pieces from the property’s 120 years as a hotel. When it was opened by Swiss hotelier César Ritz in 1989, the original décor was meant to entice well-heeled Americans visiting the city, combining elegant art with antiques and replicas of everything from Louis XIV– to Empire-style furniture to create a unique sense of traditional French elegance. The style of 15 Place Vendôme quickly became iconic, and hallmarks like the hotel’s plush red-velvet barstools, salon sofas from French writer Marcel Proust’s retreats at the hotel, the gilt-framed bed that starred alongside Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper in their 1957 film ‘Love In The Afternoon’, the first en-suite bathtub ever installed at the property (or in any hotel, for that matter), and ornate marble side tables are all up for loyalists to bid on.
In addition to hallmarks of the Ritz’s style, pieces from suites that some of property’s most famous inhabitants called home will be up for sale. Sure to spark bidding wars are pieces such as a pair of plush floral chesterfield armchairs, a gilded headboard, and sleek lacquered bedside tables from the Coco Chanel Suite. The legendary fashion designer called the hotel her home for more than 30 years – giving testament to both the hotel’s enduring stylishness and its famous homelike feel . . . if home is a Versailles-inspired mansion, of course.
A bedboard and lacquered bedside tables from the Coco Chanel Suite.
Believe it or not, many of the lots aren’t outrageous, either. Bids open at €150 for a pair of gilded lanterns, and €300 for a set of Louis XVI-style banquette. If the over-the-top opulence fits with your own personal aesthetic, then what better way to hold on to a piece of history? One thing’s for sure: there’ll never be another hotel quite like it.
Come into the world of the Ritz Paris.