How I love discovering something new, and today’s discovery particularly gratifies me because it fits so well into our current themes of the seventeenth century and the Marais. While doing a small, self-guided tour of historic buildings in the Marais -which is pretty much every building – I stood shivering and reading from the guidebook about hotels particuliers on rue Francs-Bourgeois. I spied a building flying the tri-color and took a closer look.
Entering a lovely courtyard with fountain, I had a number of doors to chose from. The one marked “ventes” made sense, so I plunged right in.
Wow. Was this ever better than the auction house, Drouot. COMFORTABLE SEATS.
Let’s back up for a minute, history buffs. What was going on here and what exactly is the Credit Municipal de Paris? Known locally as “Ma Tante”, and originally as the Mont de Pitie, it is where you can go for a loan when you are particularly hard up. A money-lender. A massive pawn shop. You hand over your valuables, a value is assigned, and you can borrow up to 50% of the value.
Ma Tante will take just about anything of value. It turns out that she even has a wine cellar.
Established by Louis XIII, and, later, supported by Cardinal Richelieu, the idea was to offer a fair deal to those in need. With a few time-outs for Revolution and such, the Credit has been in business from its seventeenth century origins to this day. In fact we saw a number of people going in the other door off the courtyard and thinking about it later, I realized that these people were going to drop stuff off and get their “pret sur gage”. They didn’t seem so pitiable. No Cossettes, nor little match girls. No wailing or shifting about shamefacedly.
A poster outside the auction hall. Victor Hugo doesn’t think we should be ashamed to go to ma tante, either. Apparently 91% of those who take a loan pay it off. If, after a year, they fail to do so, their goods are sold at auction and the money is used to fill the cash coffers for more loans.
Back to the auction. Jewellery was flying out the door and the prices were fou. Examples.
I didn’t bid but wish I had on this last item. Never fear, there is one auction left in January, and guess who will be there?