Furniture Expert Heads to Trial for Selling Fakes to the Palace of Versailles

The French antique furniture expert Bill Pallot is set to face trial on charges of forgery. According to the suit, the furniture collector and dealer allegedly falsely claimed items were from the 18th century, and sold pieces at high prices to buyers, including the Palace of Versailles.

A court northwest of Paris released their conclusions to an more than seven-years-long investigation into the shocking case, allowing proceedings to head to trial at a still-unspecified date.

Pallot, nicknamed “Père La Chaise” (meaning “Father of the chair”) in a pun on the famous Paris cemetery Père Lachaise, stands accused of commissioning dozens of fake Louis XVI gilded seats, some of which were eventually sold to the Palace of Versailles and the Prince Hamad al Thani for millions of dollars between 2008 and 2014.

Pallot reportedly admitted to the fraud but told investigators he had initially only wanted to see whether he could fool other experts. He commissioned the suspect pieces from the trusted carpenter Bruno Desnoues, who regularly completed special restoration projects for the Palace of Versailles.

Together, they allegedly made chairs which they said had decorated the lustrous salons of the likes of Countess du Barry, a favorite mistress of King Louis XV, and Marie-Antoinette. In 2016, as news of the scandal broke, Pallot served four months in prison but has since returned to working in the antique furniture industry in varied capacities, according to French reports.

The Palace of Versailles is the main victim to be listed in the released court ruling, and as a result of its involvement, was subject to a government-commissioned inspection into its acquisition protocols between 2008 and 2012, which had a total a value of €2.7 million ($ 2.9 million). The ensuing report found “malfunctions” and a “lack of vigilance” by the institution, and tasked it with “profoundly revising” their acquisition procedures “as soon as possible.”

For his part, Desnoues, who also admitted to knowingly making and profiting from the swindle, faces charges alongside Pallot, whose lawyer was not able to comment at the time of writing.

Among the others called to trial in the ruling released on November 13 was the respected antique dealer Laurent Kraemer, whose eponymous gallery was founded in 1875. However, charges against Kraemer have been drastically reduced. Initially, he was accused of fraud; he now faces lesser charges of negligence. In 2015 the gallery allegedly sold two fake chairs to Prince Hamad al Thani for €2 million ($2.18 million), which were supposedly commissioned by Marie-Antoinette, but which Desnoues had recently made for Pallot with such historic accuracy. They were declared national treasures by the French state in 2013. The gallery later reimbursed Hamad al Thani.

In written messages and phone conversations, Kraemer’s legal representatives and employees vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and lamented the dealer’s involvement in a scandal that has tarnished his reputation, as well as the French antiquities market.

Since Kraemer was first interrogated, “charges [against him] have melted like snow in the sun,” stated his lawyers, Martin Reynaud and Mauricia Courrégé. “They spoke of fraud, which today, has become an issue of negligence, which we firmly contest,” added the duo. Initially accused of selling four fake chairs, that number has been reduced to two. “The entire investigation demonstrates that the Kraemers did not know that this furniture was fake,” they added. “The Kraemer gallery was fooled, and with it, all the greatest French experts on 18th-century furniture.”

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