Michel Renonciat was 15 years old when one day his father, a collector of antique firearms, expressed his frustration at not being able to find anyone to restore them. Michel rode to the rescue, and got the bug. After a stint as an officer in the merchant marine, he switched to a new career as a self-taught restaurateur du patrimoine (heritage restorer), specializing in scientific instruments, marine instruments, model boats in ivory or precious wood, optical instruments and other precious objects. He has spent the last 30 years restoring art objects for France’s most important museums and monuments, among them the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, the Château de Chambord and the Musée de l’Armée. He has also made or repaired ceremonial swords for 36 academicians belonging to the Académie Française and other prestigious French honorary academies including the Académie des Belles-Lettres and the Académie des Beaux-Arts, for which he worked on swords for Peter Ustinov, Henri Verneuil and Jean Cocteau. Renonciat’s metal works include a pair of articulated wings for a leather and stainless steel figure for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. In the eclectic sweep of his interests and technical know-how, Renonciat has also dabbled in gnomonisme—the art of designing sundials—using his talent and love for mathematics, he helped his sculptor brother by calculating the design of sundials for the Château de Beychevelle and the Place des Sept Cadrans in Reims. Currently he is repairing and restoring antique arms and other historical souvenirs for several large private collections.
17 rue Roger, Paris 14th, 01.43.22.87.39. website
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of France Today