The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Exhibitions & Displays

Conservation in Focus: True colours revealed – the treatment of a chest of drawers for Marie-Antoinette

Saturday 27th April, 2013 - Wednesday 1st January, 2014

Price: Admission Free

On 9 December 1780 this fabulous chest of drawers (or commode in French) was delivered to the palace of Versailles by the royal cabinet-maker, Jean-Henri Riesener, for the use of Queen Marie-Antoinette in her private study.

The commode was described as being a ‘new model’ in the palace records and it marks a step towards the refined simplicity of Riesener’s later works. He used the lattice-work marquetry and tripartite form for which he was renowned, but embellished the piece with jewel-like gilt bronze mounts that are more delicate and naturalistic than those on his earlier works. These depictions of real flowers – including roses, pinks, narcissi, poppies, lilies-of-the-valley and dahlias – reflect the love of nature which was such an important element in French court fashion at this time and which was a defining characteristic of Marie-Antoinette’s personal taste. In the centre of the frieze, garlanded by flowers, are the Queen’s initials framing the key-hole. The workmanship is of the very highest quality.

Based on findings from our recent conservation project, we have digitally reconstructed the colours of the original commode to show you how vibrant and colourful furniture of this type could be, something which is perhaps rather startling to our eyes and which may surprise you with its different appearance.

To see this and to find out more about the exciting conservation findings, visit the exhibition True Colours which is currently on display in the Ritblat Conservation Gallery, on the lower ground floor.

Conservation in Focus: True colours revealed – the treatment of a chest of drawers for Marie-Antoinette
The Riesener Commode, after conservation, in the Study

Press clippings and media for this exhibition.