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The wall lights were part of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation (housing unit) designed in 1965 at Firminy, a few kilometres from the city of Saint Etienne and now listed as a Unesco Heritage of Humanity Site.

The lights were placed over the coloured doors of the individual apartments in the block which were set out on either side of a long interior ‘street’.

Extensive restoration was undertaken at the housing block from 2001 to 2005 and these original wall lights were replaced by replicas to conform with electrical standards.

The originals were kept on site until the owners, a public body that runs and manages the Firminy site, decided to consign them to Artcurial.

They were due to be offered in 27 lots of two, five and 10 units at the auction on May 30 but, as a spokesman for the auction house explained, following pressure exerted at the last minute by the Fondation Le Corbusier and the site’s residents’ association, the vendors decided to withdraw the lights a few hours before the auction began.

The decision to sell had been made in consultation with the cultural authorities and the owner of the lights, said the spokesman. He added: “We were surprised by the sudden reversal of the situation but respect the choice of the owner.”