Renoir works, personal items fetch $1.6 million at NY auction

Renoir works, personal items fetch $1.6 million at NY auction

NEW YORK - A collection of over 100 letters, photos, plasters, drawings and personal items that once belonged to Pierre-Auguste Renoir were sold at auction Thursday in New York, despite protests from the Impressionist master's great-grandson.

Sale organizer Heritage Auctions, which billed it as the largest collection of Renoir memorabilia, said the items earned nearly $1.3 million (S$1.6 million) in total - far short of the hoped-for $3 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 all went under the hammer.

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 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 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 items were 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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