Evocative pieces of Paris to be auctioned

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 5:35 PM

Pieces of old Paris from a lamp post to a park bench go on the auction block next week, with the piece de resistance 40 iron steps from the Eiffel Tower, all 7.8 meters (25.6 feet) of them.

"Paris Mon Amour," the title given to the auction Monday at the famed French house Drouot, brings together an eclectic batch of memories that evoke a bygone era as well as the present.

Among the 301 items to be auctioned is a section of glass broken during the construction in 1987 of the glass pyramid now standing at the entrance to the Louvre Museum. Estimated at euro500 to euro1,000 ($735-$1,470), it is accompanied by a photograph taken at the time.

"I have been thinking for many years about organizing an auction concerning Paris," said Christophe Lucien, who put the sale together.

The moment arrived when officials of Nogent-sur-Marne, east of the city, asked Lucien to sell the section of Eiffel Tower staircase, bought by the town in 1983 at auction.

"I thought that was the perfect opportunity ... because there is nothing more symbolic of Paris than a staircase from the Eiffel Tower," Lucien said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.

Things moved quickly.

"I just spread the word among my clients, and everybody started to pull out objects related to Paris from their draws, cupboards ... In almost every French family there are some souvenirs of Paris".

Gustave Eiffel himself climbed the painted iron stairs linking the third and fourth floors of the tower (second and third floors by French count) during the 1889 inauguration of the monument, today the symbol of Paris, to plant the French flag, according to Lucien. It is estimated at euro50,000-euro60,000 ($73,500-$88.200). The buyer must pay to have the steps dismantled.

Of a more modest size, and estimated price, are a taxi counter from around 1920, estimated at euro100-euro150 ($147-$220), and a pair of wooden Metro seats, hat racks included, from the early 20th century, estimated at euro400-euro500 ($588-$735).

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Posters and paintings make up a considerable portion of the items to be auctioned, including one featuring oh-so-French singer and actor Maurice Chevalier dancing with the Eiffel Tower dressed in evening gown.

The Moulin Rouge, of course, makes several appearances, from posters of the kicking legs of can-can girls to a decorative lamp from a dinner table.

For someone with room to spare, an old-fashioned public toilet, or Vespasienne, goes on the block, too. Such iron constructions were a common site around Paris until the 1980s. This one, rusting in places, dates from the Napoleon III era, but is estimated at a modest euro1,000-euro1,500 ($1,470-$2,205).