The unprecedented sale is scheduled for September 20-21 and all profits will be entirely donated to the Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris-Hôpitaux de France, an organisation chaired by France’s first lady Brigitte Macron.
The Mobilier National dates back to 18th century (it was founded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a minister under Louis XIV) and is responsible for furnishing official residences including the Élysée Palace. It maintains a large quantity of furniture, clocks, chandeliers, ceramics, tapestries and carpets that were formerly in government and public properties, and it is thought to hold at least 130,000 objects.
Many are stored in the historic Gobelins manufactory in Paris which members of the public can visit.
The Mobilier National said the items will be selected by curators but that no ‘treasures’ will be part of the sale. Among the items likely to be sold are pieces which rarely leave storage and are considered impractical to keep.
Director of Mobilier National Hervé Lemoine told Le Figaro that the items would have limited heritage value and will not be pieces used by anyone significant. They would not be “squandering of family jewels”, he said.
“The role of National Furniture is not only to be a ‘Guardian of the Temple’”, said Lemoine. “Our institution has never stopped renewing itself, and we must, more than ever, be by the side of those who are mobilized in the health crisis or who suffer the consequences [of dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak].
“While we have all been led to question and question ourselves, it seems to us, more than ever, that National Furniture, the trades and the values it represents, must be an actor in the reconstruction of our social model.”
In addition to the auction, Mobilier National also announced that it is pledging €450,000 to support a range of professions in the art and antiques sector, including restorers, cabinet makers, upholsterers, gilders and weavers.