20 July 2013

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Landmark Paris Hotel and gallery destroyed by fire
The Huffington Post reports PARIS -- Fire has partially destroyed a landmark mansion on Paris' Ile Saint Louis that once belonged to the Rothschild dynasty.

The Hotel Lambert, a 17th century mansion overlooking the Seine river, suffered "serious damage" in a fire that broke out early Wednesday morning, according to deputy Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. Televised images showed billowing grey smoke pouring out of the building's roof while helmeted firemen clambered across balconies trying to extinguish the blaze. Fire department spokesman Philippe Durieu said the fire was put out by 7:30 a.m. He said the building's roof was almost completely destroyed.

Accoridning to Art NewspaperThe fire has destroyed a series of frescoes made around 1652 by the artist Eustache Le Sueur. The blaze caused the rooftop to collapse on to the Cabinet des Bains (bathroom) area immediately below. Its vaulted ceilings were decorated with Le Sueur’s designs depicting Greek gods and nymphs.

“It’s a complete disaster,” Alexandre Cojannot, an architectural historian, told Le Journal des Arts. Following extensive restoration, begun in 2010, “the Cabinet des Bains was in a perfect state, an excellent example of ‘Parisian Atticisme’ [a 17th-century movement drawing on classical Antiquity]”, Cojannot adds. The French culture minister, Aurélie Filippetti, said that the Cabinet des Bains has been “completely destroyed”.

The building, part of a Unesco World Heritage site on the River Seine, has been unoccupied since it was bought in 2007 by a brother of the emir of Qatar and has been undergoing a controversial renovation.

The philosopher Voltaire courted his mistress, the marquise du Châtelet, at the hôtel Lambert in the mid-18th century.

It fell into disrepair and was being used as a warehouse, when, in 1843, Prince Adam Czartoryski, an exile after the failed Polish rising of 1830, bought the building after Delacroix brought his attention to it. The family collection, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, around 1489, was housed at the celebrated residence; frequent visitors, meanwhile, included Chopin and Balzac. In 1975, the mansion was sold to the Rothschild banking dynasty.

In 2007, the Qatari prince Abdullah bin Abdullah al Thani bought the hôtel Lambert for around €60m. The sheikh’s plans to modernise the residence prompted protests from conservation groups; according to reports, the Qatari royal family has pledged to help restore the building following the fire.

IMAGE CREDITS: Hotel Lambert - Euro News

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