Marie Antoinette’s desk by Jean-Henri Riesener returns to Versailles

22/3/11 – Acquisition – Versailles, Musée National du Château – Despite current economic hardships which tend to see a decrease in patronage, the château of Versailles has just enriched its collection with a major acquisition : the desk which Marie Antoinette had commissioned from Riesener in 1783 (ill. 1). Its provenance is identified by the marks CT (Château de Trianon) beneath a royal crown and the digits 84 which correspond to the salon in the Queen’s house at the Hamlet.

1. Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806)
Desk, 1783
Bronze - 76 x 111 x 63 cm
Versailles, Musée national du Château
Photo : Christian Milet

2. Details of the bronze
of Jean-Henri Riesener
Photo : Christian Milet

3. The Cabinet Doré of Marie-Antoinette
with the desk by Riesener
Château de Versailles
Photo : Christian Milet

Even furniture neophytes can easily appreciate the extraordinary elegance and grace of the desk, a true masterpiece. The veneer of precious wood is of kingwood and tinted sycamore. The bronze fixings are exquisitely refined, decorating all four sides with reliefs representing Cupids playing musical instruments amidst vaporous clouds (ill. 2). This acquisition is obviously a rare and totally unexpected opportunity, as most of Riesener’s furniture for the château de Versailles, sold during the Revolution, resides in museums in the United States or the United Kingdom. The desk was purchased from the Kraemer gallery which owned it since 1997 after previously being in one of the Rothschild families. Interestingly enough, about forty-five years ago the Kraemer family had donated the inkstand which stood on the desk to Versailles without imagining that it would one day own the famous piece itself. The inkstand and the desk will not return to the Queen’s Hamlet as conservation conditions there are not adequate. They will be placed in the château [1], in Marie Antoinette’s Cabinet Doré (where the andirons in the fireplace were also donated by the Kraemer family). Finally, we would like to point out that this piece of furniture, acknowledged of major interest for our heritage was acquired with the help of Groupe LVMH Moët-Hennessy-Louis Vuitton and the Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceutical company [2].

Didier Rykner, mardi 22 mars 2011


[1] There is no mention of the inkstand in the press release, but Béatrix Saule confirmed to us the fact that it will be reunited with the desk.

[2] They will be able to deduct, as provided by law, 90% of the total amount of the purchase from the company taxes.

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