Riesener Display

Exhibitions & Displays

Riesener Display

Riesener Display


In this stunning display at the Wallace Collection, discover the extraordinary life and work of Jean-Henri Riesener, one of the most important cabinetmakers in France during Louis XVI’s reign.

From humble beginnings as a German emigrant, he found work in Paris and went on to become the most successful cabinetmaker of his generation. His work was renowned for its floral and figurative marquetry and spectacular gilt-bronze mounts and he was appointed cabinetmaker to Louis XVI in 1774.

A marquetry roll-top desk
Jean-Henri Riesener, Roll-top Desk (Bureau à cylindre) c.1770.

He was Marie-Antoinette’s favourite cabinetmaker, providing furniture for her private apartments in several royal palaces. In the nineteenth century, his name became synonymous with craftsmanship and luxury, and all that was admired in French furniture. The Riesener furniture in the Wallace Collection is some of the most important in the world. It is also the single largest holding of furniture that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette outside France.

A marquetry roll-top desk
Roll-top desk, c. 1853-60 (copy of the bureau du Roi, 1760-69). Cabinetwork possibly by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen, mounts attributed to Carl Dreschler, clock movement by Charles Couët

The Riesener Season Display will incorporate two themes. The Private Marie-Antoinette will explore furniture made for the queen, displaying significant pieces on specially-designed plinths in the centre of the galleries, allowing visitors to see them in the round for the first time and ensuring that every detail can be explored.

The second theme is that of Riesener’s Legacy. Displayed as they were in the nineteenth century by Sir Richard and Lady Wallace, two magnificent roll-top desks will be shown alongside each other in the centre of the Great Gallery. One is Riesener’s masterpiece made for a French aristocrat, the comte d’Orsay, in 1770; the other is a copy commissioned by Lord Hertford in the 1850s of the most famous piece of French furniture in the world, the Bureau du Roi, or King’s Desk, delivered by Riesener to Louis XV in 1769.

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