An Exceptionally Rare Secrétaire, After the J.H. Riesener Example in The Wallace Collection

H: 54.5 in / 138 cm  |  W: 40 in / 102 cm  |  D: 17 in / 43 cm


Of upright rectangular form with canted corners; veneered in thuya-wood, and banded in purple-wood, exuberantly dressed with gilt bronze mounts of the highest quality, and having a Carrara marble top. Rising from bracket feet, the lower apron has a strong gilt bronze mount of stiff leaf acanthus foliates and volutes; the lower section has two lockable doors, with laurel wreathed escutcheons, the recessed panels, with gilt bronze frames, enclosing a shelf fitted interior. Over, the counter weighted lockable fall front has conforming recessed panels, mounted with a stepped gilt bronze indented band, the corners with rosettes of bay leaves, interspersed with berries. At the centre, an elliptical gilt bronze panel, depicting ‘A Sacrifice to Love’, a classically dressed woman presenting an infant to Cupid, who stands on a pedestal, wreathed by the scent from a brazier. The plaque has ribbon tied flowers, including roses, myrtle, narcissi and lilies-of-the-valley above, and below. The fall front encloses an interior fitted with drawers and pigeonholes.
The top frieze houses a drawer, having a centrally posited rectangular plaque, depicting three infants, one playing with a spaniel, one holding an open book, and handing a letter to the third infant, who wears the winged cap of Mercury, and has his caduceus at hand. The plaque issues sprays of roses, pinks, carnations and other flowers, with rosaces at the angles.  Over, a gilt bronze egg and dart band frames the shaped Carrara top. The canted front angles are pilasters, mounted with gilt bronze spandrels, cast as stiff leafed acanthus, having attached sprigs of oak leaves, berries and intertwined forget-me-nots, all within a gilt bronze stepped band.  Below, smaller acanthus leaf spandrels are dressed with chased volutes.
The sides are recessed and housed within running gilt bronze bands as seen on the lower doors, with a guard band betwixt the upper and lower sections.  Chubb locks, (marked with their London address, 128 Queen Victoria Street, and ‘Detector’, their special virtually unpickable lock) are fitted.
England, Circa 1900


Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) born in Westphalia, and arrived in Paris in 1755, gaining employment at the atelier of Jean-François Oeben. After Oeben’s death, he married his widow, Francçoise, and took over the workshop, became a ‘maitre ebeniste’ in 1768, and was appointed ‘Furniture Maker to the King Louis XVI’ in 1774.
His masterful interpretation of the French Neo-Classical manner, married to sublime workmanship is represented in museums world wide, including, the Victoria and Albert, The Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace, The Wallace Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Getty Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, Chicago Art Institute, the Frick Collection, Chateaux des Chantilly, Fontainebleau and Compiegne, and the Louvre, inter alia
The Riesener Secretaire in the Wallace Collection
Originally delivered, along with other pieces, in February 1783 for Marie-Antoinette’s private rooms at Versailles, it was confiscated after the Revolution, and re-appeared in Russia in 1865, where it was purchased from Count Koucheleff Bezborodko, by Frederick Davis, and thence resold to the 4th Marquess of Hertford, where it is recorded in his Parisian collection at Rue Laffiite in 1867. 

REF No. 8548

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