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Versailles: feud jeopardises interior restoration but gardens are completed
Private sponsor accused of hiring incompetent restorers

A dispute over restoration contracts at Versailles risks jeopardising a new French law, passed in April 2002, that allows private sponsorship for State projects. Pasquali-DeMonte, the restorers chosen by the French construction firm Vinci that is funding the €10 million ($12 million) restoration of the Hall of Mirrors, has been accused of incompetence by two French firms, Delteil and Lepage-Pontabry, who lost the tender for the restoration contract in September 2003. The job, which includes repairs to the paintings, 450 windows, and gold-leaf and stucco work, is scheduled to begin next month and to finish in 2007.

In a letter sent to leading members of the conservation world, the French firms allege that Pasquali-DeMonte does not meet the criteria for the tender. These stated that candidates should have a recognised diploma following a minimum of four years’ study and at least three years of professional experience. They say that of “35 painting specialists, only 15 correspond to the required level of experience. One has no diploma at all, and another has a diploma that is not recognised in France. Of the 19 sculpture restorers, not have the necessary qualifications or experience; most have Italian diplomas which only take two years to obtain”. The French firms also say that the restoration team has an overall level of training inferior to the four years of study required by French law to handle national collections.

Isabelle Pallot-Frossart of Direction des Musées de France, the State museum authority responsible for Versailles, defends the sponsor’s choice. “The affair is motivated by the bitterness of the rejected candidates”, she said, pointing out that Pasquali-DeMonte has already completed two major restorations in France, the Galerie d’Apollon at Versailles and the Pavillon de l’Aurore at Sceaux. Patrick Palem, director of the Vinci group, said that the allegations were motivated by “jealousy and xenophobia”; because the firm selected for the job includes many Italians. The case is now going before a tribunal.

Franco-American Versailles garden restoration

Catherine Hamilton, the Chicago-based philanthropist who is the president of the American Friends of Versailles, an association she founded in 1998, together with Olivier, vicomte de Rohan, the head of the French Les Amis de Versailles, have announced the completion of the seven-year-long, $4 million restoration, funded by the two organisations, of the Trois Fontaines Bosquet, the garden of three descending terraces, each with a fountain, designed by André Le Notre.