Buyer snaps up pawn shop's Renoir

Phone bid secures artist’s Young Girl Seated in a Garden for 190,000 euros.

26 June 2008

A secret buyer has paid 190,000 euros for a Renoir in an auction by France’s oldest pawnshop.

Young Girl Seated in a Garden a 65 by 49cm drawing was put up for sale by the Crédit Municipal de Paris.

Other works sold included a piece by Russian artist Serge Poliakoff, which went for 31,500 euros, and a 1924 watercolour by French neo-Impressionist Paul Signac, "The port of Conquet," which was bought for €9,000.

The Paris Credit Municipal pawnshop was established in 1777.

Located in the heart of the historic Marais district, Credit Municipal acquired its nickname - "Ma Tante" or "Auntie" - when a son of the 19th-century monarch Louis Philippe pawned his watch and chain to cover a gambling debt, telling his mother he left it "chez ma tante."

It is run in partnership with the city and accepts everything from artwork to jewels or wine as collateral for short-term loans, for as little as 30 euros.

Ninety-three percent of all borrowers repay their loans in full and reclaim their possessions, the broker says. The remaining seven percent are sold to pay off the debt.

Most pieces such as the Renoir come from French aristocrats, according to Credit Municipal spokesman Vincent Vogt.

"Some grand old French families have considerable assets, but much lower income. People with ordinary jobs cannot afford to pay for the cost of, say, repairing the roof of a chateau," he said.

According to auctioneer Rene Saragosti, the pawnshop issues frequent loans of up to half a million euros for artwork.

The Credit Municipal currently has custody of some 10 million items, including France's second largest collection of artworks after the Louvre, both pawned works and thousands of others deposited for safe storage.

On Friday of dozens of Art Nouveau vases designed by Emile Galle, as well as porcelain and silverware went up for auction along with an Art Deco bench designed by Ireland's Eileen Gray for her Paris home early last century, valued at €80,000 to €100,000.

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