THE KING'S COMMISSION
This elegant little writing-table bears several inventory brands and numbers documenting its regal provenance. While part of the most prominent painted inventory numbering has been painted over, the first as well as the last two digits of the four-digit number remain clearly legible and can be identified as '2' and '09'. On stylistic grounds the table can be dated to circa 1775-1780, allowing a search of the Journal du Garde-Meuble Royal. The journal entry for '2209' lists a delivery in 1764 -clearly too early to have included this table- while the entry numbered '2909' for 6 August 1777 lists a delivery of furniture by Riesener 'pour servir au Roi au château de Trianon' and includes a table clearly identifiable as that offered here (Arch. Nat. 01 3319).
The 1777 description is fairly accurate and it is intriguing to note that it does not mention the solid mahogany under tier joining and re-enforcing the four legs. It is possible that the table-à-écrire was indeed conceived and delivered without the lower tier, which might have been added soon after, possibly at a time when the table was moved from one apartment to another, somewhere in the years between 1777 and 1789, as evidenced by the circular brand of the Garde-Meuble de la Reine which is applied to the under tier. The latter brand indicates that the present table would have been transferred from the appartements of the King - to whom it was originally supplied in 1777 - to those of Marie-Antoinette with a view to serve a very specific purpose.
With fashions changing furniture was moved between the apartments and it is conceivable that the undertier was added when the table went into restoration at such a moment. The small inkwell drawer next to the slide appears to have different linings than the larger drawer to the side of the table and this too might be the work of such an early restoration, thereby supporting the theory that the present table would have been tailored under the direction of the Queen to serve a very specific purpose.
Several other -all exceptionally sumptuous- pieces are listed as having been delivered by Riesener to the Petit Trianon on 6 August 1777, the day this table-à-écrire was delivered. These include a secrétaire-à-abattant delivered for the Cabinet du Roi, with fall-front centred by a portrait medallion allegorical of Silence, with numéro d'inventaire 2904, now at Waddesdon Manor (ill. G. de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, vol. I, Fribourg, 1974, no. 69, pp. 348-57), a bureau plat commissioned by Marie-Antoinette for the cabinet du Roi at the Petit Trianon (numéro d'inventaire 2905), now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (ill. G. Wilson and C. Hess, Summary catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2001, p.73, no.73) and a table-à-écrire by Riesener (numéro d'inventaire 2907), now at Waddesdon Manor and ill.op.cit., vol. II, n.103, p.505.
It is important to note however that foresmost ébénistes such as Riesener and menuisiers such as Georges Jacob are also recorded to have delivered a significant number of pieces to the Couronne for day-to-day use in addition to the mobilier d'apparât for which they are perhaps most chiefly remembered. As P. Kjellberg points out, the entirety of Riesener's production is characterised by a rigorous finition, perfectly balanced proportions and perhaps more importantly an outstanding quality of execution. Such is the case not only for the most prestigious furniture he supplied to the Crown but also the less elaborate pieces he produced for the appartements secondaires of the Royal couple and princes, and for his private clientèle.
RIESENER, ÉBÉNISTE FAVORI DE LA REINE
Of German origin, Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) entered the atelier of Jean-François Oeben and became his successor after marrying Oeben's widow, née Van der Cruse, and taking over the workshop of the ébéniste du roi at the Arsenal, maître in 1768, Riesener became ébéniste ordinaire du Mobilier de la Couronne in 1774, and between 1774 and 1784 supplied the Court with furniture worth more than a million livres, excluding deliveries to the private Gardes-Meubles of Marie-Antoinette, the Comte de Provence, the Comte d'Artois, Mesdames and the other princes. Rieseners' supremacy was ultimately only halted by a combination of the arrival of Thierry de Ville d'Avray as Directeur du Garde-Meuble in 1784 and the rising success of David Roentgen.