JEAN HENRI RIESENER 1734 -
(G2, G3a, G3b, G3c)
xxxxxThe German Jean Henri Riesener was a pupil of the famous furniture maker Jean François Oeben and took over management of his workshop when he died in 1763. He completed the desk Oeben began for the king in 1760, and when Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774 he became the royal cabinetmaker. Like his master he was an exponent of the rococo style early in his career, producing furniture with curved lines and extravagant adornment, but in the service of the king he turned to the straight lines and restrained decoration of the neo-
xxxxxThe German Jean Henri Riesener, joined the Paris workshop of the celebrated furniture maker Jean François Oeben in 1754. When Oeben died nine years later, he not only took over management of his workshop, but also married his widow in 1768. He came to the notice of the king, Louis XV, by completing and delivering the famous bureau du roi (king's desk) which his master had started in 1760 and left unfinished (illustrated here). With the coming to the throne of Louis XVI in 1774, he was appointed royal cabinetmaker and, generously favoured by the young queen, Marie Antoinette, was kept busy providing exquisite furniture for the royal palaces, or fulfilling commissions for Madame du Barry, the late king's mistress.
xxxxxLike his former master, he was an exponent of the rococo style during the early part of his career, excelling in the production of furniture with ample curves and covered in a feast of surface decoration -
Riesener: detail, by the French portrait painter Antoine Vestier (1740-
xxxxxA cabinetmaker with whom Riesener competed was the German David Roentgen (1743-
xxxxxA German cabinetmaker who competed with Riesener was David Roentgen (1743-
xxxxxAt first, like his father, and, indeed, his major rival Riesener, he practised the Rococo style with its curves and ornate carvings, its florid decoration and its intricate inlay work. In the mid 1770s, however, in response to a new vogue, he began producing furniture along straight classical lines and this fresh, elegant style sold well. And like a variety of pieces produced earlier by his fellow countryman Jean François Oeben, many of his writing tables and desks contained hidden compartments, cleverly revealed by the use of ingenious locks and other mechanical devices.
xxxxxDuring the reign of Louis XVI, Riesener was the foremost cabinet maker in France, but -
xxxxxWith the coming of the French Revolution in 1789, however, his business was badly hit, and when the French army prepared to cross the Rhine in 1795, Roentgen had to move his work force and stock further inland. Eventually his workshops in Paris and at Neuwied were looted and destroyed, bringing production to an end.
xxxxxIncidentally, another well-