The Wallace Collection

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Jean-Henri Riesener (1734 - 1806)
Biography
Works of Art

Riesener was born in Gladebeck on 4th July 1734, he moved to Paris and apprenticed to Jean-François Oeben. After the death of Oeben, Riesener directed his workshop under the authority of Oeben’s widow whom he later married. Riesener’s marriage to Oeben’s widow allowed him to become one of the most celebrated ébénistes of late eighteenth-century Paris. Through his wife Riesener became related to other prominent craftsman such as Simon Oeben, Roger Vandercruse, Martin Carlin, and to Antoine-Andre Ravrio.
In 1768 Riesener became a Maître-ébéniste and in 1769 Riesener began to supply the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne. Although Riesener’s early works can be difficult to distinguish from those of Oeben there is no doubt that he played an essential part in creating the famous Bureau du Roi Louis XV started by Oeben.
Although attempts were made to imitate the style of Riesener, his creations remained unequalled. During the French revolution Riesener found work in removing royal emblems from his creations. After the French revolution Riesener could not recover sums owed to him by the state and used most of his fortune to buy back his masterpieces believing that the monarchy would eventually be reinstated. He was proved wrong and he was unable to resell the furniture which after 1795 was found to no longer suit French tastes. Although Riesener continued to produce furniture his later work was uninventive and undistinguished.