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The salle James Christie on the lower ground floor of Christie’s smart Avenue Matignon premises in Paris were packed for the December 5 evening sale. Prospective buyers, press and onlookers, a large contingent of Christie’s staff from around the world, and Christie’s owner François Pinault, turned out to see another slice of auction history in the making.

Before the auction began, François Curiel, chairman of Christie’s Europe, took the stage. Addressing the assembled crowd under the watchful eye of a portrait of James Christie and surrounded by a phalanx of specialists from the new auction house, he spoke of the “great emotion of an event that has a certain importance for the whole art market”.

He went on to point out that by coincidence this inaugural auction was taking place 235 years to the day after James Christie had held his first sale on December 5, 1766 in London.

François de Ricqlès, vice president of Christie’s France, then took up the gavel. The first lot, a pair of Louis XVI gilt bronze firedogs sold to applause for a double-estimate Fr100,000 (£9525). It was bought by UNESCO ambassador Gilbert Chagoury, who had been determined to secure the first item sold by the auctioneers in France at any price.

The 108 lots of furniture and objects realised a premium inclusive Fr11m (£1.05m). Much went to the inevitable bank of telephone buyers but there was also plenty of activity in the room. Bidding was divided evenly between trade and private and, in what must have been an encouraging outcome for the auctioneers, 20 per cent of the bidders were new to Christie’s.

Talking after the sale, Christie’s chief executive Edward Dolman said: “I can’t tell you how proud a moment this is for Christie’s as a company to be selling things in Paris. This is
ia very important and slightly emotional moment for us. We have been talking about selling in France since 1972.”

The second, more specialised session of Sèvres porcelain collected by M. Zieseniss offered the following day netted a double-estimate Fr6.8m (£650,000), bringing the total for the entire sale to Fr18m (£1.67m).