A recent report by France’s national audit office recently release a report of the Mobilier National (MN) that found less-than-stellar results. The MN, which was set up in the 17th-century, is a supplier of fine goods to furnish the likes of royal palaces. For example, it has provided furniture and tapestries to accommodate the needs of Versailles and the Élysée Palace.
From gilded clocks to graphic arts, cast bronzes to furniture fit for a king, a palace in need can find anything they need in the stores of the MN – or can they? The auditor’s report found that 7,800 objects, which is a tenth of the organization’s inventory, cared for by the MN were not able to be found. Moreover, it recorded that their inspectors found ‘large quantities’ of alcohol amidst the MN’s workshops and that employees were ‘moonlighting,’ using the MN’s tools for personal projects as reported by AFP.
Thus, the report concluded that the MN needed to be ‘radically reformed’ and that ‘a very large part of the [collection] exposed to the risk of theft.’
The MN’s staff, as you might expect, did not take kindly to the implications of the auditor’s report offering a heated rebuttal to the organization’s report. Director of the MN, Herve Lemoine and senior conservators said the report contained ‘grave and grotesque factual errors.’ Also, they said that the report ‘highlighted two or three cases, which already had been identified and sanctioned, to heap opprobrium on the 350 people’ employed by the MN. Another discrepancy in the report, according to Lemoine, was that the report stated employees only work 120 days each year. He told AFP that not only do the MN’s workers only work 30 hours per week but the auditors ‘only counted the hours of restoration that were billed to [various public] administrations.’
The report also took aim at what it coined to be the ‘war of the glues’ stating that the controversy amongst conservators on whether to use animal-based glues or modern vinyl-based glues was slowing progress and damaging items in their stores. In support of this, the auditors referenced a case in which the restoration of a Louis XVI Vaudreuil armchair worth €1 million was damaged during its restoration taking hundreds of thousands of euros off its value.
The criticism from the report has also caused concern amongst MN workshop workers. Head of the carpentry department, Cerille Faucheaux, told AFP it’s been ‘hard to swallow’ the report’s news. He also worries that the findings will damage the future of the MN and its work. He also offered that their findings on the so-called ‘war of the glues’ wasn’t a ‘war’ but ‘normal discussion between experts.’
‘We have already begun our own remoulding,’ Lemoine continued. ‘Our establishment is a rough diamond that only needs to be recut so that it will shine with a new and extraordinary brilliance.’