Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener, who was born in Herdon, Germany, in 1849, was based at 12, Rue de la Roquette between 1880 and 1895, where his flourishing atelier executed elegant and refined items of furniture which recall the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles. In addition to the stamp ZJ, which appears on several of his bronzes, two dry stamps were mainly employed in the workshop, J. Zwiener and E. Zwiener, which has often been regarded as the proof of a collaboration between two brothers or cousins. However, nowadays this view has generally been discarded. When exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle of 1889, Zwiener received the médaille d'or and was praised by the jury who noted 'dès ses débuts à une Exposition universelle, [il] s'est mis au premier rang par la richesse, la hardiesse et le fini de ses meubles incrustés de bronzes et fort habilement marquetés'. (D. Ledoux-Lebard, Les Ébénistes du XIXe Siècle, Paris, 1984, pp. 645-648.)
In 1895, Zwiener was recalled to Berlin by Emperor Wilhelm II, and was subsequently known as Julius Zwiener. His first commission from the Emperor was the furnishing of the so-called Mecklenburgischen Wohnung in the Berliner Schloß in the neo-Baroque style. Many of the pieces executed by Zwiener for the Imperial palaces were brought to Huis Doorn in Utrecht in 1918, where the Emperor lived in exile until his death in 1941. (Burckhart Göres in Kaiserlicher Kunstbesitz aus dem Holländischen Exil, Berlin, 1991, p. 261 and pp. 287-291.)
This magnificent commode is a reproduction of the celebrated commode supplied by Jean-Henri Riesener to the Salon des Nobles at Versailles in 1786, and was supplied to Etienne van Zuylen by the decorator F. Jansen, whose stamp is visible next to that of Zwiener. It was probably initially used to furnish the Paris residence of the Van Zuylens as it does not appear on any of the early 20th century photographs of the principal rooms of Kasteel de Haar and has always had a rather inconspicuous position in the secretariat between the bedrooms of the Baron and Baroness van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar.