Robespierre auction results update

The state preempted the sale. Director of the French national archives Hervé Lemoine announced it to the room after the hammer fell, to the applause of the crowd. “Bravo, sir!” cried the auctioneer in response, because hey, Sotheby’s is getting paid no matter what, and no small amount either. The papers sold for far above the estimate. Sotheby’s valued them at €200,000-300,000 ($287,000-$431,000) and the final hammer price was €750,000 ($1 million). The state also preempted the sale of another group of documents, letters written by Augustin Robespierre and Phillipe Le Bas to Maximilien. That lot sold for €40,000 ($57,000), so altogether, including buyer’s premium, the final price tag is €979,400, or approximately $1.4 million.

The Society for Robespierre Studies had already raised $100,000. Now they and the government have to raise ten times that amount to keep the papers in country. No small feat, especially since Robespierre remains a conflicted figure in French history, what with the mass murders and the Terror and all. Hervé Lemoine declared himself optimistic that the money would be raised, then coupled that optimism with an appeal to the French people to chip in vigorously.

5 thoughts on “Robespierre auction results update

  1. As you say, that is the kind of “terror” that Sotheby’s can live with quite happily! AND I am sure that everyone went into the room knowing exactly how it was going to end. AND meanwhile, I am also sure that Sotheby’s did not even dream of planting people to push the bidding through the ceiling! In a well-ordered universe (to use the language of the Enlightenment that produced Robespierre), the French Republic would have been able to intervene the moment the bidding reached the high estimate.

  2. It was two phone bidders who drove the price up, so as far as we know, these mysterious collectors could have been Sotheby’s phone bank operators listening to a robot recite the exact time.

  3. In the old days, the term was “bidding against the chandelier”. The auctioneer kept his eyes fixed on an indeterminate middle distance, registering barely perceptible (or non-existent) winks, nods and raised fingers. “After a round of spirited bidding between the chandelier and the exit sign…” Now, I suppose, the real action is between the exact time and the local weather. Et alors, the French Republic descends from the clouds. Then, Bravo Monsieur…and Bob’s your uncle!

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