The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Secretaire
  • Jean-Henri Riesener (1734 - 1806)
  • France
  • 1783
  • Oak, veneered with thuya-wood, amaranth, sycamore, stringings of ebony and box, Carrara marble, gilt bronze and brass
  • Object size: 138.5 x 98.8 x 42.5 cm
  • Stamp: 'J.H.RIESENER'
    Inscription: 'No 3208' Painted
    Label: 'HENRY J. HATFIELD / April GENERAL 1900 / Fine Art Manufacturer / AND / Renovator of Old Work, / 86, CHARLOTTE STREET, / FITZROY SQUARE, W.' Painted, dated in ink
    Inscription: 'F.Feser / At Hall Barn / Beaconsfield / Feb 1943' In pencil
  • F303
  • Study
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This desk (secretaire) was supplied by Riesener with a matching corner-cupboard (F275) and a chest-of-drawers on 12 February 1783 for Marie-Antoinette’s private study at the château of Versailles, where it replaced one decorated with the cockerel of France (F300). It stayed in that room for just under a year, while Marie Antoinette waited for new lacquer-mounted furniture to be delivered by Riesener. This desk had always been intended for her 'cabinet en bas' (study) at Marly, and was sent there at the end of 1783. However, three weeks later it was back at Versailles and placed in her new apartment on the ground floor.
    Riesener has used a plain veneer for this desk rather than marquetry. The burr effect of the thuya has been enhanced by the use of small wooden dowels knocked into the veneer. The frieze mount showing three putti, one dressed as Mercury ready to deliver a letter, and the Sacrifice to Love medallion hanging trompe l’oeil fashion on the drop-front illustrate the kind of playful classicism that the Queen loved. The secretaire is very similar to another made for the Queen (F302) and delivered for her use at the Petit Trianon a month later, although the medallion and frieze mounts may not be original.