143 Renoir works, personal items to be auctioned off

143 Renoir works, personal items to be auctioned off
An art shopper looks closely at a 5.5 inch by 6.6 inch painting by French Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

NEW YORK - Some 143 letters, photos, plasters, drawings and personal items that once belonged to Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be sold at auction on Thursday, despite protests from the Impressionist master's great-grandson.

Heritage Auctions, which has organised the sale, expects the lot, billed as the largest collection of Renoir memorabilia, to bring in some $3 million (S$3.7 million).

Renoir's glasses, his signature polka-dot scarf, his marriage certificate and letters written to him by friends and contemporaries such as Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Auguste Rodin will be put under the hammer.

Also part of the sale is the painting "Les Becasses" - The Woodcocks - completed only a few hours before the artist's death at age 78 on December 3, 1919.

The entire collection belonged to one of Renoir's grandsons, Paul, who moved to the United States and sold the belongings before his death in 2005.

In France, Jacques Renoir, the artist's great-grandson denounced the "dismembering of Renoir's private life by publicly selling family memorabilia... including personal objects, personal letters and photographs including Renoir on his death bed."

In an open letter to French Culture and Communication Minister Aurelie Filippetti, the Orsay Museum in Paris and the Renoir Museum in the southeastern French city of Cagnes-sur-Mer, he expressed his desire for the two institutions to buy some of the items.

The sale has generated "huge" interest, according to Brian Roughton, managing director of fine arts for Heritage Auctions.

"Various museums have been here, French museums mainly," he said, refusing to name exactly which ones, but saying "that the most major of all have been here to go through the collection."

The lot was purchased from Paul Renoir by Rima Fine Arts gallery, in the southwestern state of Arizona. Heritage has not named the seller, but Rima Fine Arts has advertised the event on its Facebook page.

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