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Bar Hemingway, Paris | ©Pablo Sanchez / WikiCommons
Bar Hemingway, Paris | ©Pablo Sanchez / WikiCommons

Lost Glories of the Paris Ritz's Belle Epoque Up For Auction

Picture of Jade Cuttle
Updated: 13 February 2018

The era commonly referred to as La Belle Époque (1871 to 1914) is one of the most glorious periods to have featured in Parisian history: not only did it see the epic construction of the Eiffel Tower and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, but also the Paris Métro and the Paris Opera. The Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendôme is now auctioning off some of this era’s most treasured lost glories.

The French expression belle époque (meaning ‘beautiful era’) first came into use after World War I as a nostalgic term for what everybody felt was a simpler, stylish and more optimistic period. It spanned a period from 1871 to 1914 and there was elegance and progress at every turn.


Masquerade ball at the Ritz Hotel, Paris, 1909 | © Metropolitan Museum of Art / WikiCommons

The Hôtel Ritz on the Place Vendôme opened in 1898 in the highly chic 1st arrondissement of Paris. The hotel is ranked among the most luxurious hotels in the world and has always championed a prestigious reputation. It was among the first hotels in Europe to offer a personal bathroom en suite, a telephone and electricity in each room, and boasts a two-Michelin-starred restaurant within its walls.

As well as princesses and politicians, there have been countless famous writers, film stars and singers who enjoyed revelling in the hotel’s luxury. The most famous names to have stayed at the hotel are Coco Chanel (who lived and died at the Ritz), the Shah of Iran, existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre and literary legend Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was a regular at the bar during the 1920s in the company of his friend, fellow writer F.Scott Fitzgerald.


Hemingway bar, The Ritz in Paris | © Pablo Sanchez / WikiCommons

There are now in excess of 10,000 treasured objects up for grabs at auction. They represent the very best of the Ritz’s Belle Époque, seen as surplus clutter following the €140 million refurbishment. The revamp was of epic proportions, involving 800 craftsmen.

The auction treasures include everything from lavish furnishings and pristine tableware, to opulent chandeliers that sparkle with a century of hotel history to their name. There are plenty of quirky objects lurking around the collection such as a Louis XVI-style dog bed, a bagful of service buttons and impressive garden gates.

Place Vendôme, amb el Hotel Ritz a l´esquerra

Place Vendôme, Hotel Ritz | © Jaume Meneses / WikiCommons

‘It’s a form of elegance and a certain savoir faire à la française,’ says auctioneer Stéphane Aubert of Artcurial, which is organising the sell-off, as reported in The Guardian. ‘Many of the items were either made by well-known manufacturers or by the Ritz’s own workshops, so they are quality and still in good condition.’ He says the items encapsulate ‘Ritz style’.


Ritz hotel | © WikiCommons

These historic gems have been grouped into 3,500 lots ranging from €100 to €5,000. Any purchase made at this auction promises to offer a unique relic of the truly sophisticated French art de vivre, captured in the warm and glittering Ritz character.