In 2015, France’s Naval Staff left the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris. The monument was then handed over to the Centre des monuments nationaux. The aim was to restore the edifice and give visitors an experience of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne (Furniture depository) as it was when the building was built in the 18th century.
The Centre des monuments nationaux, the public institution in charge of managing the monument and opening it to the public, chose to restore the original decor: that of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne in the 18th century, the epitome of excellence in French architecture and decor.
It was all indeed about restoring since the project implied to go back to the original state of the monument in the 18th century. The CMN and teams of conservators and restorers were pleasantly surprised to discover the original wall decors, ceilings and floors beneath the successive additions from the 19th and 20th centuries.
This has also represented a tremendous opportunity for visitors, who can now admire the unique, outstanding atmosphere of an apartment from the age of Enlightenment. The stately reception rooms that run along the loggia have been kept in the decor that the Naval Staff designed in the middle of the 19th century.
How do you bring back decors dating back for more than two centuries?
Simply by scratching. Indeed, preliminary studies and surveys, carried out before the restoration works began, quickly helped discover, beneath the layers of paintings and decor added over the years, the original paintings of the Intendant’s apartments.
Equipped with scalpels, the teams of restorers were therefore tasked with stripping, peeling, erasing and rubbing – square centimetre after square centimetre – the more recent paintings to reveal the original decor of the 18th century.
A true treasure hunt.
The aim of this restoration process? To allow all visitors to dive into the 18th century. A very modern art outreach was chosen to achieve that goal : the Confident is a connected headset that interacts with explanatory devices in the different rooms. It offers much content. This innovative, immersive system featuring binaural sound helps breathe life into the various areas of the Hôtel de la Marine and into the characters who marked its history. As visitors discover the monument, they learn more about the way the intendant and his family lived in the 18th century.
French craftsmanship serving the heritage areas of the Hôtel de la Marine
This ambitious campaign to refurbish the Hôtel de la Marine was made possible by the participation of different trades dealing with cultural heritage to preserve the coherence of the edifice and to restore the monument while incorporating new uses into it. Among the specialist firms in craftsmanship that worked on the restoration project, there were:
• Joseph Achkar and Michel Charrière, decorators, ‘Ambassadors of the 18th century’
• Mathieu Lustrerie, chandeliers, Lubéron
• Alexandre Phelippeau, tapestries, Paris
• Leyla Ahi, textiles, Paris
• Declercq, trimmings, Paris
• Atelier Mériguet-Carrère, paintings, Paris
• Chantal Sanier, ‘The Olfactory Signature of the Hôtel de la Marine’