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Riesener Project

Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) is one of the most celebrated French furniture makers of all time. A German immigrant who traveled to Paris to make his fortune, his fame is largely based on his role as official cabinet-maker to King Louis XVI and the pieces he produced for the royal court. He was a particular favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette and made beautiful furniture for her private apartments that reflected her love of exquisitely detailed works of art and refined elegance. Following the French Revolution, many pieces of Riesener furniture were sold at public auctions and were ultimately exported to England, and later, the United States.  

Hillwood has two commodes, or chests of drawers, attributed to Riesener, both of which Marjorie Merriweather Post purchased from the art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen in New York who played an influential role in Post’s early collecting. One commode (31.10) was purchased by Post in 1926 to decorate the French drawing room of her Manhattan apartment. It was formerly in the Parisian collection of Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870) and was later inherited by his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), founder of the Wallace Collection in London. Conversely, the second commode (31.11) incorporates mechanical springs and was purchased later in 1962 as a pendant display in the entry hall at Hillwood. Neither commode is signed and both likely underwent various alterations, including re-gilding and the replacement of marble tops, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  

Deconstructing Riesener

British institutions with prominent collections of Riesener furniture recently undertook extensive research into his construction and techniques, an endeavor titled the Riesener Project. One result of the project's scientific analysis was a series of visuals that illustrate the complex construction of Riesener's pieces. French institutions, including the Musée Condé and the Château de Versailles, have likewise used technology to animate Riesener pieces in their collections. 

Inspired by this research, Hillwood commissioned similar visuals. The commodes were disassembled, and each component was scanned. These individual scans were then reassembled to produce an interactive experience that reveals how the elaborate wood marquetry panels and gilt-bronze mounts that adorn the commodes are supported by an oak frame or carcase.

Below you will find animations of the two Hillwood commodes.