Chest of drawers
  • Date: 1780
    by 1865 (various alterations made, eg. current marble top added, cornice changed and new mount fixed on apron)
  • Medium: Oak, purplewood, satiné, stained woods, burr wood, ebony or ebonised wood, box, gilt bronze, vert des Alpes marble, steel lock plate, steel key
  • Object size: 92 x 122.4 x 54.8 cm
  • Inv: F247
  • Location: Study
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Further Reading
  • Marie-Antoinette displayed this chest-of-drawers in one of her private rooms at Versailles, where it harmonised beautifully with the other decoration in the room. When Riesener delivered it, he called it 'a new model', and it marked the beginning of a series of suites of furniture that he was to make for the queen. Here the gilt-bronze mounts are almost jewel-like in their exquisite form and detail, with perfectly-formed flowers flanking the queen's cypher, her initials ‘MA’. This seems to be a reflection of Marie Antoinette's personal taste, which can perhaps be characterised as an elegant Neoclassicism softened by flowers and pastoral reminders. Riesener remained her favourite cabinet-maker even after the royal administration made attempts to end his position as privileged supplier to the king in 1785.

    Recent conservation work has allowed us to understand much more about this piece of furniture. Like other furniture of the eighteenth century, the original colours have faded considerably over the years. For example, the veneer behind the gilt-bronze mounts on the frieze was once stained a turquoise-blue colour, and the pastoral trophy on the front was similarly highly coloured. The reddish and purple tones of the other woods would have made this a highly colourful piece of furniture, blending harmoniously with the embroidered silk wall hangings and the highly-decorated Sèvres porcelain displayed in the room. The pastoral emblems on the medallion were specifically designed to match one of the trophies in the wall-silk, a special fabric designed by Jacques Gondoin in 1779 for the room and woven at Lyon by Jean Charton. Originally this commode would have had a top of veined white marble, much more in keeping with neoclassical taste.