Riesener is one of the few ebenistes of his time whose fame has extended beyond the limits of his profession. Together with Boulle and Cressent he is one of the very few £l^nistes mentioned in eighteenth-century sale catalogues. In contrast to them, Riesener was a recent immigrant from Westphalia. He was born in Gladbeck in 1734, son of a chair-maker, and moved to Paris at a fairly early age. possibly around 1754, to be apprenticed to Jean – Fran^ois Oeben at the Arsenal. At the time of Oeben’s death in 1763 Riesener was one of his principal employees and took over the direction of the workshop in 1765, if not earlier, on behalf of Oeben’s widow, until he himself became a master in 1768. For a period of five years, therefore, between 1763 and 1768, the products from Oeben’s workshop, though bearing his stamp, were actually the work of Riesener and his
assistants. Numerous pieces of furniture in early stages of construction, described in the inventory drawn up at Oeben’s death as mere carcases, were therefore completed by Riesener. A famous example is the ‘bureau du Roi’  begun in 1760 by Oeben and delivered by Riesener (who stamped it) in 1769 after nine years of painstaking work to bring it to perfection. At the same time that he was putting the finishing touches to the ‘bureau du Roi’, Riesener produced another secretaire a cylindre, equally sumptuous, for the Comte d’Orsay (Wallace Collection), which as Christian Baulez has supposed, may have served as the prototype for the royal piece.
Not content with securing the direction of Oeben’s workshop. Riesener married his widow in 1767 and look over his quarters at the Arsenal which remained his home and workshop for more than thirty years, at
least until 1798. The Arsenal was a privileged enclave exempt from the regulations restricting the guilds (in particular that forbidding ebenistes to cast or chase mounts in gilt-bronze in their own workshops); Rie – sener therefore enjoyed similar privileged conditions to Oebcn and Boulle before him. Thanks to his marriage to Oeben’s widow Riesener became a member of one of the principal dynasties of ebenistes in Paris of that time, for she was no less than the sister of R. V. L. C. and the sister-in-law. by her first marriage, of Simon Oebcn. and of Martin Carlin who had married one of Oeben’s sisters.
Riesener brought to the marriage a dowry estimated at 1.200 livres. while his bride’s assets were calculated at 18,200 livres. including stock and furniture in process of completion. The inventory appended to the marriage contract indicates however that Oeben’s workshop had declined. At the time of his death there were twelve work-benches, whereas on his widow’s remarriage there were only six remaining. It is true, however, that one of his most important patrons. Mme de Pompadour, had died in 1764. The work
shop still seems to have preserved the social cachet it enjoyed under Oeben. The Tablettes royales de renom – mec for 1772 announces that ‘(Widow) Hobenne at the Arsenal keeps an impressive ebenisterie shop.’
Riesener did not lose time in recapturing royal patronage. His ftrst delivery to the Garde-Meuble Royal was consigned on 5 February 1771: among large deliveries by Joubert there was a ‘bureau meca – nique’ of a type for which Riesener had gained a reputation with the ‘bureau du Roi’. During the following years other commissions, including a numl>er of ‘bureaux mccaniques’. are recorded in the Journal of the Garde-Meuble. In June 1774 Gilles Joubert’ now eighty-five years old. formally relinquished his office of ebeniste du roi’ to Riesener.
There now followed a decade of great success and
prosperity from 1774 to 1784. During this period Riesener delivered more than 938.000 livres worth of furniture to the Garde-Meuble Royal, an annual amount twice that of his predecessor Joubcrt. To the Queen, particularly after the birth of the Dauphin, Riesener supplied furniture of an incredible luxury and inexhaustible ingenuity in its combination of precious materials such as Japanese lacquer, mother-of – pearl and marquetry with the richest of chased and gilded mounts.
To keep pace with his success and the pressure of orders from the Court. Riesener was forced to subcontract to a large extent, a practice common among former ebenistes du roi such as Joubcrt and Gau – dreaus. However. Riesener further insisted on a unity of style. A note by a clerk from the Garde-Meuble Royal in April 1786 comparing the workmanship and charges of Riesener and Benneman reveals the practice of subcontracting and suggests it as a cause of weakness in certain pieces: ‘1 notice with regard to Benneman that Riesener buys his furniture in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and thus, if instead of this they were made in Benneman’s workshop, they would consequently be more robust and need replacing less frequently’ (Arch. Nat. 0’3640).
Here is a plausible explanation for certain pieces of furniture delivered by Riesener whose technical perfection is not up to the expected standard. Among the ebenistes to whom Riesener would subcontract. Weis – weiler in particular must be mentioned: their two stamps are found side by side on mahogany pieces entirely in Riesener’s style. Sometimes only Weis – weiler’s stamp is found on a piece of furniture typical
of Riesener. of which the pair bears Riesener’s stamp. These pieces, consisting chiefly of commodes delivered to Fontainebleau around 1784-86. were constructed with panels framed with mahogany mouldings together with certain gilt-bronze mounts also typical of Riesener.
In 1776 Riesener’s first wife died. The inventory drawn up at the time has disappeared. But we are provided with an equally interesting record in the form of the inventory drawn up in 1783 on his remarriage. This ebeniste had become a man of substance with assets estimated at 10,000 livres. an annual income of more than 6.000 livres. a stock estimated at 30.0(H) livres. and equipment valued at 6.(XX) livres. The turnover of the business reached the considerable figure of504.571 livres. in cash or in sums owed by the (Town and private clients. His expenses amounted to 145.(XX) livres. which indicates the importance of his business. It was at this period that Riesener had his portrait painted by Vcstier (see p.9). holding a furniture – (or marquetry-designer’s pen rather than a vulgar saw or artisan’s chisel. Here is evidence of his obvious ambition to raise himself to the level of the artist.
/449j Secretaire a cylindrc, c. 1773- 76, unstamped but with the remains of Riesener’s trade label; an identical desk was supplied to the Comtesse de Provence by Riesener in 1773. iW/addesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire)
Rieseners career started to decline from about 1785. In 1784 Thierry de Ville d’Avray had succeeded M. de Fontanieu as head of the Garde-Meuble Royal. The new director completely reformed the Garde – Meuble, replacing the old numbering system of the Journal of the Garde-Meuble with a system of order books and labelling, as well as instituting the compilation of inventories of all the royal chateaux. Organization and economy were the order of the day under the new regime, and partly for reasons of economy Riesener was dropped in favour of his young colleague Benneman. By 1785 it was equally true that taste had changed. The ‘style arabesque’ was currently in fashion and the royal family was buying lavish furniture by Weisweiler through the dealer Daguerre. Moreover, in his own fields of ‘meubles a mecanisme’ and intricate marquetry, Riesener had been superseded by Roentgen, for whose work the royal family had a passion. Finally, the Queen herself turned to Schwerd – feger to create her finest furniture before the Revolution.
At a time when the Garde-Meuble Royal was scrutinizing Rieseners charges in an effort to find a replacement, the officials published a report, dated 178(>, which is worth quoting (see Appendix). This report is of interest on more than one account: first, it gives a resume of Riesener s current production and shows to what extent it was sterotyped (giving for instance a range of three commodes of varying degrees of sumptuousness). Further interesting details arise: mahogany furniture in current taste was finished in rempli cire (‘wax-polished on the inside as well as the exterior ) and not varnished. Moreover, the bronze mounts were described as varnished fen couleur d’or’) and not ‘gilt’ fdore d’or moulu’). that is. mercury – gilded. Finally, the report mentions numerous pieces of furniture in walnut (the full list is not given here). At the time of writing, to the author’s knowledge, there are no recorded pieces in walnut stamped by Riesener. Various explanations are possible: either all Rieseners common furniture has vanished; or the pieces in walnut were upgraded by modern re veneering; or even these simple pieces were farmed out to second-rate ebenistes and Riesener did not stamp them.
The Revolution brought about the ruin of Ries – ener’s business; during the sales of Crown and other property under the Revolution he bought back at deri-
/4511 On certain pieces made by Riesener for the Queen the mounts attain a jewel-like quality. This table was supplied in 1782for the Queen’s boudoir de la Mcridienne at Versailles. The gilding alone, by Remond, cost 1.050L. (Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire)
/452/ Detail of a secretaire supplied in 1783 to Marie – Antoinette by Riesener for the Trianon. Riesener here uses marquetry with sunflowers on a boisjaune ground. The lozenges of bois saline are bordered by black and white fillets, as is found on work by Oeben. I Wallace Collection, London)
sory prices numerous pieces he had supplied to the Crown in hopes that he would be able to sell them at a profit when times were more auspicious. But the demand for this type of lavish furniture had completely dried up. Because of the desperate state of his finances he was forced to advertise the sale of his stock in 1794. This was not a great success, however, as he was forced to repeat the operation in 1797-98. During this period he must have removed the royal cipher and arms on a number of important pieces: thus on the commode in Louis XVI’s bedchamber he substituted geometric marquetry for the fleurs de lys. On the celebrated ‘bureau du roi’ he replaced the royal ciphers on the sides with plaques imitating Wedgwood and the central medallion with the profile bust of Louis XV was replaced by that of Minerva. In January 1806. at the time of his death. Riesener had left the Arsenal and moved in with his son on the me Saint-Honore in the Enclos des Jacobins.
W % % к t « t ЛЛ I k V % V. k^lVl. lVka
I454J Commode with marquetry of lozenges tin<i sunflowers; the inscription ‘Riesener Ft. 179Г in the marquetry of the central part, according to M. Th. Dell, refers to the date when the central jfclion uvij reveneered and enriched with a bronze medallion by Riesener. (Frick (Collection, New York)
[4551 (right) Commode attributed to Riesener. с. 1776; here Riesener combined marquetry of lozenges and sunflowers with a large central trophy. (Gulbcnkian Museum. Lisbon)
1457J Commode stamped Riesener, с. 1785, in plumpudding mahogany, corresponding to a standard model estimated by Riesener at 600L in his price list of 1786. (Sotheby’s Monaco, 21 February 1988, lot 827)
14561 Bureau d grudin in plum-pudding mahogany stamped Riesener, с. 1780-85. (Archives Galerie Levy, Paris) (458] (below) Wnttng-tabfc in mahogany stamped Riesener with the marks of the Petit Trianon, supplied in 1777 (delivery no. 2909) for the King’s use’; it corresponds to a standard type estimated by Riesener at 100L in his price list of 1786. (Sotheby’s Monaco, 23 June 1985, lot 770)
1459] (right) Mahogany secretaire en cabinet stamped Riesener, c. 1785-89; this piece was influenced in its form and mounts in arabesque style by the cabinets made by Weisweiler for Daguerre. (Archives Galerie Aaron, Paris)
SUBMISSION OK PRICES FOR STANDARD FURNITURE ВУ RIESENER IN 1786 (ARCH. NAT. О’ЗМО)
Pieces in mahogany Commodes
— Commode (4 pieds in length) with 5 drawers wax-polished inside and outside and decorated with sabots, capitals, escutcheons ami rings in gilt-bronze, the top of ordinary marble. 3001.
— The same, of 3 pieds in width. 2801.
— More elaborate commode with wooden moulding surrounding the panels, a gilt – bronze moulding below the frieze; decorated with consoles, chased capitals, sabots, escutcheons and rings in gilt – bronze. 4001.
— More elaborate commode than tin* preceding with bronze mouldings around the panels, a gilt-bronze moulding below the frieze; decorated with consoles, chased capitals, sabots, escutcheons and rings in gilt – bronze. 600L
— Secretaire cn armoirc. well made in mahogany, wax – polished inside and outside, decorated with sabots, capitals, escutcheons and rings, with giltlike varnish. 2401.
— Secretaire en armoire. completed, wax-polished inside and outside, with silvered Єсгіюігє and the decorations in gilt-bronze, of272 by 3 pieds. 3001.
— Secretaire cn armoire. complete, wax-polished inside and outside, with silvered ecritoire ami decorations in gilt – bronze. 3 by 4 pieds with white marble top. 4001.
— Secretaire in plum-pudding mahogany with 3 mouldings of which one forms the frieze, the other the base and the third in the centre with frames surrounding the panels in mahogany, recessed pilasters with sunken panels, decorated with rings and escutcheons in gilt-bronze. 3 by 4 pieds. 5001. Encoignures
— Encoignures en suite with the commodes (no. 1); each worth
‘/> of matching commode. 1001.
— Encoignure in plum-pudding mahogany in the same style as the commode with which it is to lx – used, with two gilt mouldings around the circumference, that is. one forming the base and the other the frieze, with rings and escutcheons in gilt-bronze. Each worth 71 of the matching commode. 130 or 2001. Toilet-tables
— Л toilette in mahogany fitted with 6 pots in porcelain. Ixmles. powder-boxes, mirrors and all accessories, decorated with sabots, button-handles, rings and rosettes. 200L
— A toilette in plum-pudding mahogany with more elaborate mounts, with wooden mouldings surrounding the panels. 2401.
— Д toilette in plum-pudding mahogany with chased mouldings surrounding the pancLs. The mirror and accessories more elaborate, the inside in blue taffeta trimmed with a narrow braid. 360L
— Bureau in cbonized wood with drawers fitted with locks and garniture in imitation gilding, the top covered with black morocco leather. 4 feet long 80L
— Similar desk. 3 feet long. 72L W/nting-tables
— Writing-table in mahogany having a drawer at the side, furnished with a silvered 1460] Backgammon table in plum-pudding mahogany stamped Riesener, с. 1785,
dcritoire, decorated with gilt capitals, sabots and escutcheons, 30 pooces. fitted with a leather top. 100L Night-tables
— Bedside-table in mahogany with 2 shelves of veined white marble. 501.
— Commode chair with pot і ocil. 661.
— Commode chair with faience pot, fitted with brass hinges and hooks. 661.
— Trictrac-table of the best type, in plum-pudding mahogany, all the panels framed with mouldings in the same wood, the top covered in cloth on one side and morocco leather on the other, embellished with capitals, sabots and 4 rings in gilt-bronze, the checkers in green and white ivory, covered on one side in cloth, with dice and all accessories, including the checkers in ivory.
— Folding quadrille-tabic in mahogany, the top in plumpudding figure with fillets round the edge. 96L
— Picquct and trkrtrac-table in the same wood. 96L
— Folding b re Ian-table in mahogany covered in green cloth, with a central stand on which to place candles and cards, the top veneered with a panel of figured wood framed by a fillet. 180L
one of Riesener’s standard modeb. (Sotheby’s Monaco, 15 June 1981, lot 128)
]46 і/ (left) Secretaire д abattant stamped Riesener, с. 1775; the marquetry has retained something of its freshness, from which the intensity of the original colours may be imagined. The corner- mounts in the form of vestal busts are more often found on Carlin’s
work, and their models certainly belonged to Poirier. iMusee d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva; Michclham Bequest) (462] (above left) Bonheur-du – jour stamped Riesener, с. 1780. (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
1463] (above) Riesener made a speciality of mechanical tables; this one is stamped both Riesener and Cosson; once the drawers are pulled out, the complex mechanism releases a superstructure with marquetry which has kept its original colour (sec p. 432). (Formerly in the Anthony de Rothschild Collection; Christie’s London, 23 June 1923, lot 49)
1464] (below) Commode supplied by Riesener in 1780for the second Cabinet Inttrieur of Marie-Antoinette at Compiegne. Riesener here played on the contrast between the large horizontal strips of Ы* satinS veneer and the finely detailed marquetry in the centre on a pale sycamore ground. (Palais de Ckrmpicgne)
(466] Toilet-table stamped Riesener, с. 1785; almost identical to a table supplied in 1784 by Riesener to Marie – Antoinette for the Tuileries, now in the Petit Trianon. This example was confiscated during the Revolution and is inscribed ‘no.8 liste civile. Toilette plaque – Maison Egalite Reserve’. (Formerly in the Earl of Rosebery’s collection. Mentmore; Sotheby ’s. 19 May 1977, lot 4441
(465J (above) Secretaire d abattant stamped Riesener. The fashion around 1785 was for plain veneers and restrained marquetry. Riesener invented a marquetry of lozenges delineated by black and white fillets on a sycamore ground called ‘saline gris’. (Archives Galerie Segoura, Paris)
(467] Commode stamped Riesener, с. 1785, bearing the marks of the Petit Trianon and the number ‘35’, with marquetry of lozenges in tulipuwod. (Petit Trianon, Versailles)
1470J For Mane-A ntoinette’s boudoir at Fontainebleau, which was redecorated by the Rousseau brothers in 1786, Riesener conceived «і жilf of furniture in metal and mother-of-pearl comprising a secretaire d cylindre and a sewing-table. Here again the lozenge motif « used but the mother-of-pearl has replaced the ‘sat me gns’ (465] and the borders are in silvered bronze instead of amaranth. The harmonies in silver and gold thus obtained matched the colours of the wall – paintings. (Chateau de FontainebleauI
/471.4721 For Merit- Antoinette Riesener created some of his most sophisticated furniture; the Queen collected Japanese lacquer which she placed in her Cabinet Interieur at Versailles; Riesener made this commode and secretaire for that room in 1783. together with an
encoignure. All bear the mark of the Chateau de Saint-Cloud, where they were subsequently sent in 1788. The quality of the chasing on the mounts and their extraordinary lightness are of a jewel-like quality. I Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York I
over, if a study is made of Daguerre’s invoices, not only to the Garde-Meubie Royal but also to his private clients between the years 1784 and 1790. it will be seen that the descriptions correspond mostly to furniture by Weisweiler; as Carlin. Daguerre’s principal supplier, had died in 1785, Weisweiler must have stepped into his shoes. The stylistic similarities between the work of Carlin and Weisweiler are striking enough to make one wonder if the latter might even have been trained by his older colleague. Another hypothesis. the most plausible, is that the stylistic similarities between the two craftsmen had their origins in Daguerre, who must have provided both with the designs for the furniture and models of the bronze mounts, porcelain plaques and panels of lacquer and pietra-dura.
Weisweiler’s clientele was therefore essentially that of Daguerre: the French royal family, the nobility (the Due d’Aiguillon. the Marquise de Brunoy. the Mare – chal dc Castries, the Due de Guiche. the Duchesse de Fitzjamcs. the Comtesse Diane de Polignac) and foreign royalty (the Queen of Naples. Maria-Carolina owed Daguerre 14.225 and the King of Naples 5.977 livres). These large sums certainly correspond to the black-lacquer pieces  today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. which originally stood in Caserta: they appear in the old inventories of the palace, and when they were sold by the Italian royal family they were replaced with copies which have mahogany borders around the lacquer panels. The Russian Court was also among his clients, as is indicated by the porcelain – mounted secretaire  formerly at Pavlovsk. acquired by Maria Fyodorovna during or after her stay in Paris in 1782 under the pseudonym of’Comtesse du Nord’. An account of this trip is given in the memoirs of the Baronnc d’Oberkirch. in which she recorded that the Comtesse du Nord bought numerous pieces of furniture. ‘bijoux’ and porcelain from the marchands – merciers. among them Daguerre. Several pieces today at Pavlovsk or in the Hermitage must be attributed to Weisweiler. Decorated with Wedgwood plaques, they date from after 1783 and correspond to those sent by Daguerre to the Russian Court after the Comtesse du Nord’s visit to Paris. In England. Lord Malmesbury and Lady Holderness were Daguerre’s clients, and above all the Prince of Wales, the future George IV. for whom he furnished Carlton House in the 1780s with pieces in chinoiserie and arabesque style.
/479/ (right) Gueridon attributed to Wcisweilcr, c. 1780; in bun-thuya decorated with Wedgwood biscuit plaques, the legs in the form of double bamboo in gilt-bronze. As early as 1777 Daguerre sold a table of this type to Mme du Harry (see p. 38). (Couturier-Nicolay, Paris, 6 December 1983. lot 75)
14811 (opposite) Secretaire attributed to Wcisweiler, c. і 790, mounted with a Sevres porcelain plaque and fifteen Wedgwood medallions; this may be the secretaire that belonged to Marie-Antoinette: however, Daguene had a second version made which appeared in his sale in London in 1791. The mounts are by Frampis Remond. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
/478/ (above) Secretaire a cylindre attributed to Wcisweiler, с. 1785, in bun-thuya decorated with blue and white Wedgwood biscuit plaques. The dealer Daguene had the idea of mounting these Wedguvod plaques on furniture and even obtained their im/iort monopoly in 1787. (Gaterie Charpentier, Paris, 2 December 1955, lot 130)
/480/ Console-table attributed to Wcisweiler, in mahogany decorated with Sevres porcelain plaques with borders in blue oeil de perdnx, dated 1787. Formerly in the Victor de Rothschild Collection. (Archives Galerie Aveline. Paris)
Besides Daguerre. Weisweiler probably worked for the marchand-mercier Julliot. making sumptuous pieces for him incorporating pietra-dura. of which the latter had made a speciality. The drawing in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (see p. 35) for a commode in pietra-dura entirely in Weisweiler’s style was made in 1784 ‘under the direction of Julliot the Younger’. Pieces by Weisweiler can be identified among the four commodes with panels of pietra-dura that figured in Julliot s forced sale in 1802.
/4821 Secretaire en cabinet in Japanese lacquer stamped Weisweiler, c. 1785; the composite columns in chinoiserie taste and the frieze pierced with
lozenges emphasize the exotic aspect of this piece. (Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California)
At least during the first part of his career, from 1778 to 1785. Weisweiler must have worked with Riesener. The presence of both stamps on certain pieces of furniture illustrates the problem of joint authorship:
— The secretaire en cabinet in mahogany (sale Sotheby’s Monaco. 22 June 1986, lot 635).
— A mahogany commode with 3 panels *<i brisure’ – that is. with the central panel hinged on the right – hand one (reproduced in Belles Demeures de Paris, p. 86).
— A table in plum-pudding mahogany (illustrated in Weisweiler by Patricia Lemonnier. p. 38).
— A mahogany commode in the style of Riesener. in the Musee Carnavalct: Bouvicr Collection.
Moreover, three mahogany commodes are recorded stamped ‘Weisweiler’. but designee! entirely in Ries – ener’s style, which l>ear the mark of the Chateau de Fontainebleau and were supplied by the latter in 1786. One of them belonged to Anna Gould. Duchessc de Talleyrand and two others were in the Cornet-Kpinat Collection. In all these instances it is clear that it was Weisweiler who was the author of the pieces (sometimes in his own style and sometimes that of Riesener). and Riesener who sold them on. Between the
1483] Bureau plat stamped Weisweiler, c. 1785, decorated with gouache panels under glass, a rare technique also found on a secretaire by Weisweiler in
Schonbrunn. I Formerly Alfred de Rothschild Collection, subsequently Countess of Carnavon: Christie’s London, 19 May 1925, lot 302)
years 1778 and 1785 Riesener was at the height of his success. Overwhelmed with orders, from the royal family as well as private clients, he had to subcontract in order to keep abreast of his affairs.
After 1785 a working partnership developed with Benneman. Their stamps are to be found side by side on several pieces of furniture – Weisweiler-Benne – man. For example, their joint stamps have been found on a mahogany long-case clock and barometer that belonged to Marie-Antoinette, as well as the two pairs of consoles shown at . The hypothesis that the two ebcnistes worked side by side seems unrealistic. That this marks a repair by one of them is equally unacceptable for chronological reasons. There remains the explanation that one stamped the other’s work at the time of resale. As these pieces are entirely in Weis – weilcr’s style it must be accepted that they were made by him and supplied by Benneman.
Unlike so many of his trade. Weisweiler did not go bankrupt during the Revolution. Salverte has suggested that this was due to the fact that, not having a private clientele, he was not owed large sums of money. It is more likely that he continued to sell his work through Daguerre who had a shop in London, and could continue working for export. In any case, in Messidor II (1794) he bought a house in the rue Chariot for 40.(XX) livres. and then a farm in Seine-et – Marne in 1797 for 24.(XX) francs. In the same year he l>ought another house, no. 176 rue des Toumelles, for 4().(XX) francs into which he moved. It had a shop and Weisweiler now became a dealer in fine furniture.
In the sale-contract of the farm in 1797 Weisweiler is described as a marchand-ebeniste. and in 1805 he is mentioned in L’Almanach des commer^ants de Paris at his new address. As Daguerre had died in 1794. Weisweiler had probably decided to sell his furniture himself. At the same time he also worked for Thomire and Duterme who owed him 4.8(X) livres for ebenisterie supplied in 1808. In 1809, on the death of his wife, an inventory was drawn up which gives us an insight into the state of his workshop. The stock consisted above all of wood; planks of oak. off-cuts, planks and sheets of mahogany in large quantity, planks of satinwood and various small pieces of amaranth, ebony and yew. Numerous sheets are descritad as ‘of mottled wood’, or ‘figured’ or ‘burr-wood’ without greater detail. The workshop was fitted with six large workbenches and two smaller ones, indicating that he must have em-
ployed at least eight workmen until 1809. The stock amounted to 20.187 francs, the credits to 9.984 francs and cash in hand of 644 francs. Very few pieces of furniture either finished or in the process of completion are found amongst the stock, a probable indication that the workshop was in decline. Moreover, not long afterwards, in 1809, Weisweiler is described in a legal document as ‘former eb£niste‘.
In 1812 Weisweiler sold his house in the rue des Tournelles and moved to an apartment in the same street. The inventory after his death makes no mention of any ebeniste’s tools which he must therefore have sold in the interim.
Commodes a vantaux (with panels) made up the major part of his output. Of the fifty commodes listed by Patricia Lemonnier. forty-three have panels, while only seven are fitted with drawers. These commodes were usually made with three panels of which only two opened, the central panel moving across the right – hand panel by means of a flying hinge. Weisweiler made numerous examples of this type in mahogany or in burr-thuya and a number decorated with lacquer or pietra-dura. The advantage of the commode a vantaux is that the panels of lacquer or pietra-dura are not disfigured by the interruption of drawers or keyholes. This type of furniture was called a commode a brisure’.
Secretaires ‘en cabinet’ were another of Weis – weiler’s specialities. Daguerre must surely have designed the prototype as Carlin made a good number before 1785 and Weisweiler merely carried on Carlin’s production. This piece of furniture, which owed so much to both the jewel-cabinet in its minute size and exquisite detail, and to the secretaire it abattant in its fitted interior and its function as a writing-table, enjoyed great popularity as a lady’s desk between 1770 and 18W. Of 37 secr£taires listed by Patricia Lemonnier. 28 arc en cabinet’ while six are ‘en armoire’ (with fall-front), and only three are of the cylinder type. These cabinets arc mostly decorated with porcelain plaques painted with vases of flowers and sometimes with Wedgwood medallions. One of this type was owned by Marie-Antoinette; Mme Сатрап mentions it briefly in her memoirs and it can be identified today as one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. described in Les Affiches, annonces et avis divers des ventes revolu – tionnaires (481 ]. Certain other secretaires are also decorated with precious panels in Japanese lacquer such
f489J Ebony cabinet, one of a pair attributed to Weisweiler, c. 1 785. decorated with a pietra – dura panel and drawer fronts from a seventeenth-century cabinet; this piece was no doubt
conceiwd under Daguerre’s direction – bronze medallions of this type are mentioned in the inventory drawn up after his death in 1797. (Sotheby’s Monaco, 22 June 1986, lot 6401
I490J Commode, one of a pair attributed to Weisweiler, c 1785, combining Japanese lacquer with a panel of pietra – dura originally from a seven teenth-century cabinet; on an ebony ground with pewter fillets. ISwedish Royal Collections, Stockholm I
(4911 Commode with panels attributed to Weisweiler, с 1785. in ebony with pewter fillets and porphyry plaques; the plaque in raised pielra-dura is signed by Giachetti, one of the lapidaries at the Gobelins, and certainly from a cabinet belonging to Isouis XIV; it cun be recognized in a drawing by Julhot dated 1784 Isee p. J5). ISwedish Royal (Collections, Stockholm)
as those belonging to the Queen of Naples. Maria* Carolina (477). Veneered side-tables made by ebe – nistes were a new development and replaced the traditional console made by the menuisier as part of the panelling in the salon. Weisweiler produced some very varied examples, including consoles with drawers in the frie/.e and fretwork stretchers, which were no more than display pieces, and consoles with several marble shelves designed as side-tables for the dining-room.
Finally, commissioned by Daguerre. Weisweiler produced numerous small pieces of ladies’ furniture: work-tables, tea-tables, writing-tables, bonheurs-du-
jour, decorated with precious materials, lacquer, porcelain. ebony or Wedgwood biscuit. He designed a particular type of gueridon supported on gilt-bronze columns imitating bamboo, with a stand in burr-thuya decorated with Wedgwood plaques.
Marquetry is almost completely absent from Weis – weiler’s work. He preferred to use a combination of sombre veneers such as ebony or mahogany. Geometric marquetry is found on the sides of the secretaire from Pavlovsk and on a table in the Wallace Collection: these arc almost the only examples. The effect of his furniture arises above all from the richness and quality of its gilt-bronze decoration. Mounts are frequently designed as arabesques with facing goals, a mask of Apollo, or child satyrs playing the trumpet. These decorative elements, as well as the frieze of acanthus leaves, are almost hallmarks of Wciswcilcr’s work.
The presence of caryatids at the corners of the most luxurious pieces is another stylistic signature: most of them are in the form of female figures in classical dress without arms and with braided hair. These models date from after 1784 as we find them for the first time on a lacquer table at Saint-Cloud. Daguerre’s invoice reveals that the ornaments were ‘specially commissioned’. Yet the models for these mounts definitely belonged to Daguerre as they are found on a few examples by other £b£nistes. such as a console in the British Royal Collection stamped by Carlin and a secretaire by Levasseur in the Louvre. Weisweiler did not therefore have exclusive use of them. For royal commissions these caryatids were varied in detail. On the lacquer secretaire for Louis XVI at Versailles, they have raised arms [473, 474]. On the porcelain – mounted secretaire belonging to the Queen, they take the form of hermas. without arms, and with feet below. They all carry baskets of fruit which serve as capitals. The commodes, which demanded a more robust type of caryatid, also have plump children with raised arms. Sometimes they are replaced by small
composite columns in the Chinese taste . twisted at the base and of fluted baluster shape higher up. which are also characteristic of Weisweiler’s work.
Brass-reeded plaques were not Weisweiler’s exclusive prerogative but they are almost always used on the bases of his commodes. Finally, on all his furniture. panels are surrounded by gilt-bronze frames which range from plain mouldings or beading on simple furniture to friezes with undulating motifs.
The general impression, even on the largest pieces by Weisweiler. is of lightness bordering on fragility. The detached columns at the corners, the toupie feet and the frail bracketed stands accentuate this impression of fragility enhanced by precious materials such as Japanese lacquer and porcelain plaques.
Patricia Lemonnier: Weisweiler, ed. Maurice Segoura.
Geoffrey de Bellaigue: note on Weisweiler in cat. The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, vol. 2. p. 883
/495/ Commode stamped Weisweiler, delivered in 1788for the Comtesse de Provence at Versailles IChateau de VersaillesI
/4%/ (below) Ebony console stamped Weisweiler, с. 1785. (Formerly in the Chester Beatty Collection/
/497/ (below) Commode with hinged panels stamped Weisweiler; an identieal commode was supplied by
Daguerre in 1788for the Cabinet Interieur of Louis XVI at Saint – Cloud for 3.000L. (Christie’s Ijondon, 19 March 1970, lot 99)
14981 Commode with hinged doors stamped Weisu’eiler, decorated with pielra-dura plaques with borders of lioulle marquetry of pewter and brass on a tortoiseshell ground; probably originally in the sale of Daguerre’s stock in Ijondon in 17911lot 59/. (British Royal Collection)