Stolen treasures find a way back to their true owners

This undated photograph released by the original publisher of “The Paris of the World” shows a scene outside the French embassy at the level of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Clues to how Parisians would share their wealth and cash for empire-building and culture dating back more than 150 years have been found in hundreds of auction catalogues and the Paris Ordnance Archives. Interior photos of the period, the Paris of 1743-1752, provided by the Secours Catholique social aid organization and the St. Petersburg academy, bear a sense of the extravagance of imperial France at a time when commerce, the arts and the military were treasured exports. A splurge is involved—candles and wine for gala banquets; gold-plated clocks and agate brooches—as well as lavish gifts. “Among all the world’s elites, the wealthy men of the arts lived the most beautiful lives,” wrote Louis Costville in 1835. “They saw France as the most beautiful country of all and France as the most beautiful place in the world.” An unpublished photo of a gala banquet taken in 1767 from the window of the Canal Saint-Martin caban de bocage, shows the impressive banquet tables within haute cuisine. Some objects from the hoard were later on auctioned for a discounted $2,000. Most were found in the Paris Ordnance Archives in the 1940s. Photo by Lamplighter Archive

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