About this artwork
This corner was one of four made for the dining room of Marie Antoinette’s private retreat, which was built within the Petit Trianon complex on the grounds of Versailles. The retreat, a cluster of picturesque buildings including a mill, dairy and working farm, was known as Le Hameau, or The Hamlet. The marks painted and impressed on top of the cabinet, underneath the marble slab, indicate that it was made for the French queen.
In keeping with the back-to-nature movement in vogue during the 1780s, Marie Antoinette commissioned this village, whose deliberately distressed buildings with quaint thatched roofs belied the luxurious furnishings often contained within. This retreat into a make-believe world of simple pleasures gave the queen the opportunity to escape from the rigid protocol of French court life with her closest friends.
The corner cabinet, with its imported mahogany veneers, marble top, and jewel-like gilt-bronze mounts, was designed by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806), the most important cabinetmaker working in Paris at the time. Like many others in his field, Riesener was of German origin. He specialized in sophisticated marquetry and an interpretation of the fashionable Neoclassical style that had become increasingly delicate by the time this cupboard was made. The horizontal gilt-bronze border of semi-recumbent infants and leafy garlands below the marble top are especially finely cast.
- Jean Henri Riesener (Cabinetmaker)
- Corner Cabinet
- Made 1780–1790
- Oak, mahogany, marble, and gilt-bronze mounts
- 94.3 × 81.3 × 55.9 cm (37 1/8 × 32 1/4 × 22 in.)
- Mrs. James Ward Thorne Fund