Saint Laurent's last belongings sold as his dog looks on

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The Independent Online

From pots and pans to antique chandeliers, the last belongings from the homes of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge went on sale Tuesday, as the late fashion icon's bulldog sleepily looked on.

The celebrity bulldog, Moujik, joined scores of dealers and well-heeled seekers of YSL memorabilia for the four-day auction held in a Paris theatre just off the Champs Elysees boulevard.

"I'd like to have something that belonged to them in my home," said blonde Italian retiree Giuliana Giovannelli, hunting for something to distinguish her Parisian flat. "But nothing too expensive."

In all, auctioneers Christie's announced sales for the first day totalling 2.2 million euros (3.3 million dollars), including costs. The auction house expects to raise three to four million euros (4.5 to six million dollars) excluding costs, for the entire November 17-20 auction.

The sale saw a slow start for some of the more expensive pieces, with a massive 19th Dutch chandelier and a large 16th century Chinese basin both going 50 percent below their top estimates of 60,000 euros (80,000 dollars).

Several pricey items even had to be withdrawn after failing to find buyers.

But then a flurry of bids for smaller bric-a-brac sent prices flying and by the end of the day 95 percent of the lots were sold.

One Swiss couple, hoping to pick up an eye-catching Napoleon III sofa for a couple of thousand euros, quickly gave up to watch the piece instead soar to 29,500 euros.

"I'm pleased," Berge told AFP. "Very pleased, as all the proceeds are going to HIV-AIDS research and campaigning."

The proceeds however will be a drop in the ocean compared to February's record smashing YSL-Berge auction of artworks they amassed over half a century.

That blockbuster sale raised 342 million euros (491 million dollars), making Saint Laurent the top-earning dead celebrity of 2009, ahead of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, according to Forbes.

Most items under the hammer this week are from the pair's weekend hideaway on the French coast, the three-storey Chateau Gabriel in Normandy that they acquired in the early 1980s.

The style-setters - design enthusiasts, art buffs and literati - decorated the mansion in a style inspired by novelist Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time", late 19th century Bavarian castles, and decors by Luchino Visconti.

"It was a sublime decor, a homage to Proust, a kind of exercise in style," Alexis Kugel, the renowned antique dealer who helped them acquire their more valuable art treasures, told AFP.

Reading lamps, boxes, pipes and side-tables financially accessible to YSL fans at a mere couple of hundred euros each were among 300 bits and pieces up for grabs on the first auction day.

But the magic of the name sent prices to dizzying heights at times. A pair of brass 19th-century English fireplace hearth stands, for instance, went for 15 times the estimated 1,000-euro value.

Highlights were two 19th century chandeliers estimated at 10,000-15,000 euros that fetched 82,600 euros, a Napoleon III table estimated at 2,000-3,000, that finally sold for 49,000 euros, and a Napoleon III suite of furniture worth 4,000-6,000 euros that flew away at 49,000 euros.

The rest of the 1,185 objects, are from the pair's Paris flats and offices.

Among those items, which will close the sale, is the most expensive, a Fernand Leger gouache estimated at between 60,000 and 70,000 euros (90,000 and 105,000 dollars).

Saint Laurent's last Mercedes-Benz car, due to have closed the sale, was withdrawn at the last minute by Berge, who sat by Moujik's side on opening day.

Almost 18 months after the couturier's death in June last year, the couple's Moroccan seaside home overlooking the Gibraltar Straits as well as Saint Laurent's vast Paris flat with garden are still on the market.

Berge, a business tycoon and arts patron who was Saint Laurent's lover and business partner, opted to sell all after the June 2008 death at 71 of the designer who famously put women in trousers.

"I hope that everything we loved so passionately will find a home with other collectors," Berge, who is 78, said earlier this year.

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