Jean-Henri Riesener (17341806), the German cabinetmaker who emigrated to Paris in the mid-eighteenth century and became supplier of furniture to Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their court, has been the subject of an extensive research project undertaken by the Wallace Collection, Waddesdon Manor and the Royal Collection.
Over the past six years, the Project has investigated his career, craft and legacy, which has helped develop a greater understanding of his cabinetmaking materials and techniques, as well as his innovations in furniture design. Many of the Projects discoveries were incorporated into cutting-edge 3D furniture models, the first monograph on Riesener and a display at the Wallace Collection. This display focused on the furniture that Riesener made for Marie-Antoinette as well as his lasting influence on later cabinetmakers.
Although this display at the Wallace Collection has now drawn to a close, much of the Projects work, as well as the pieces of furniture themselves, can still be explored through a comprehensive microsite
dedicated to Riesener, in addition to the book. The detailed technical examination of the materials, structure and condition of the objects that took place during the Project, along with scientific analysis, allowed accurate digital models to be created in SketchUp. These are hosted on Sketchfab for a fully interactive experience that allows users to gain an appreciation of the complexity of Rieseners work, and his virtuosity as a craftsman and designer. These models on the Microsite are enriched by isometric drawings, catalogue entries that examine the history of the furniture and the characteristics of their production, along with essays that explore Rieseners life, craft, patrons and collectors.
A Riesener trail has also been created on the Royal Collections website. This draws together all the Riesener furniture from the three collections, along with their digital models, short catalogue entries and an interactive timeline of Rieseners life and key commissions, interspersed with events in French national history.
Many aspects of the Riesener Project were pioneering, from its focus on the materiality of Rieseners furniture to his workshop processes and the business of furniture-making. However, perhaps the Projects most ground-breaking achievement was sharing its research results with as wide an audience as possible, through multiple media, on an open-access online platform.
Jean-Henri Riesener (17341806) is one of the most celebrated French furniture makers of all time. A German immigrant who travelled to Paris to make his fortune, his fame is largely based on his role as official cabinetmaker to the king, Louis XVI, and the pieces he produced for the royal court. He was a particular favourite of Marie Antoinette and made beautiful furniture for her private apartments that reflected her love of exquisitely detailed works of art and refined elegance.