One of the largest of the world’s auction houses has been laid open to systematic pilfering by a group of porters, the Independent has reported. It would seem that the large volume of antique furniture, artworks and jewellery passing through Drouot’s auction house in Paris is partly to blame where pieces left didn’t always reach the auction itself. The way it worked was if customers queried where an item was, it would reappear as if by magic, if not, it would just disappear.
A group of porters called ‘Les Savoyards’ who all come from a small number of villages in the French Alps, generally manage all the ushering and removals at Drouots and reportedly eight of their group were caught stealing. Drouots is stating it is not to blame.
Portering in Paris has predominated been done by people employed from these high alpine pastures for 180 years. The job for Savoyards at Drouots is to collect, store and carry items to the auction room. They are also allowed to buy and sell themselves but this scandal has taken away their rights to do this.
Ten containers opened by police are said to hold objet d’art, ancient books and antique furniture. Apparently thievery by the Savoyards was common knowledge among Paris antiques dealers, but no-one wanted to complain for fear of upsetting the porters where valuable objects could get broken during delivery. Other practices involved taking a door off an antique desk or wardrobe, buying the item as incomplete then putting the piece back together and selling it on for a large profit.
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