They are tools of torture from the distant past.
Yet recent French history has got in the way of an auction that was due to put a chilling collection of torture devices under the hammer in Paris.
That is because the instruments, including swords, manacles and an iron maiden, belonged to Fernand Meyssonnier, an executioner who practised his trade in Algeria as its people fought for independence
“There is a misunderstanding in that this is not a collection of torture instruments used in Algeria, but a collection about the system of torture and punishment from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution,” said auctioneer Bertrand Cornette of Paris auction house Cornette de Saint-Cyr.
Not everyone agrees with this assessment.
Human rights activists in Algeria have insisted that some of the late executioner’s grisly assortment of artefacts were indeed used there.
With the North African nation currently celebrating 50 years of independence, France’s Culture Minister
Frederic Mitterrand joined the outcry against the auction, which will not now take place.