Born in Herdon, Germany in 1849, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener is recorded as having worked in Paris at 12, rue de la Roquette from 1880 to 1895. In 1895, on receiving an important royal commission from Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, Zwiener returned to Berlin where he was known as Julius Zwiener. His successful atelier executed elegant pieces of furniture replicating articles from the Garde-Meuble National of France, most notably the celebrated bureau de Roi by Jean-Henri Riesener and Jean-François Oeben, upon which the present lot is based.
Laurel-festooned in celebration of 'abundance through labor' and hung with lion-pelts recalling Hercules's labors, there is perhaps no greater admired nor more frequently imitated master work of French furniture than the bureau du Roi. A tour de force of Belle Epoque genius and superior manufacture, the inspiration for this extraordinary bureau was an excessively-mounted bureau à cylindre commissioned by Louis XV from Oeben (maître 1759) in 1760 and ultimately completed by Riesener (maître 1768) in 1769. The bureau survived devastation at Saint-Cloud in 1870 and was subsequently moved to the Louvre. Under instructions from the fourth Marquess of Hertford, it is believed that the first 19th century reproduction of the bureau was completed between 1853 and 1870 by the little-known firm of Dreschler (C. Payne, François Linke: The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 218) and thereafter by Henry Dasson. The present model, completed as a bureau plat, was later furnished in the same style by Guillaume Jean-Benneman under the supervision of Jean Haur, and presently resides at Waddesdon Manor.
In the latter half of the 19th century, faithful reproductions and variants of this spectacular bureau were manufactured by the leading Parisian bnistes, including Henry Dasson, Alfred-Emmanuel-Louis Beurdeley and, as here, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener. Fascinatingly a period photograph exists, from circa 1910, showing a youthful Albert I, King of the Belgians, seated at a bureau of this type. Variants of this bureau have sold. Further examples of the form sans cylinder were sold by Beurdeley (Christie's, New York, 24 October 2012, lot 248, $242,500), Maison Krieger (Bonham's, New York, 7 December 2010, lot 1188, $362,000) and by François Linke (Sotheby's, Paris, 22 October 2008, lot 159, 312,750 euros).