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Furniture by one of the greatest cabinet-makers of the eighteenth century

Riesener timeline


Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806) was the foremost cabinet-maker in France during the reign of Louis XVI (r. 1774–92).

Born in Gladbeck in Westphalia, Germany, in 1734, Riesener emigrated to Paris as a young man and there joined the workshop of Jean-François Oeben. On Oeben’s death, Riesener married his widow, took over the business, and secured his own reputation by completing the famous ‘King’s Desk’ for Louis XV, which he delivered to the Palace of Versailles in 1769. After Louis XV’s death in 1774 he was appointed official Cabinetmaker to the King, and from this time he regularly supplied furniture to Louis XVI and his consort, Marie-Antoinette.

In 1784 Riesener’s fortunes changed. He was removed from his official post and replaced by a less talented and therefore less expensive cabinet-maker, Guillaume Benneman. Riesener continued to supply exceptionally rich pieces for Marie-Antoinette and her sister-in-law, the comtesse de Provence, but his decade in official royal service with access to large and significant commissions was over. The years following 1784 up to the French Revolution led Riesener to work with Paris dealers, including the pre-eminent marchand mercier, Dominique Daguerre.

The sale of royal and aristocratic property during the French Revolution made it newly possible for English collectors to acquire pieces by the best eighteenth-century French cabinet-makers. Riesener survived the French Revolution, but his association with the monarchy proved damaging to his career and he died in relative obscurity in 1806.

Find out more about key events in Riesener's lifetime below