We have worked at the Wallace Collection on two new installations to showcase highlights from the Collection – an exceptionally rare full set of medieval armour, one of only three in the world, and the works of Jean-Henri Riesener, France’s most important cabinetmaker during the reign of Louis XVI.
Until the nineteenth century, the fifteenth-century equestrian armour was preserved in the ancestral home of the Freyberg family at Schloss Hohenaschau in Bavaria. Around 1850 the contents of this formidable mountain fortress were sold at auction, and the armour was acquired in 1867 by the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, who displayed it in his apartment at the Louvre in Paris. In 1871 the armour was sold to Sir Richard Wallace, along with the rest of the Nieuwerkerke collection. Now, for the first time in over 100 years, the armour will be redisplayed for a limited time at the centre of the building’s courtyard café, beneath the glass-roofed central atrium.
In a second, concurrent collaboration, to celebrate the life and work of French cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener, exhibiting Riesener’s furniture in East Gallery I, East Gallery II and the Great Gallery as part of The Riesener Season. The furniture is displayed on a series of high-gloss black plinths with timber-finish sides that give a contemporary, reflecting edge to the works, positioned down the centre of the rooms, both as a way to spotlight the pieces from every angle and to provide social distance and subtle circulation guidance during the pandemic.
Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) was the most important cabinetmaker in France during Louis XVI’s reign. From humble beginnings as a German emigrant, he found work in Paris and went on to become the most successful cabinetmaker of his generation. His work was renowned for its floral and figurative marquetry and spectacular gilt-bronze mounts and he was appointed cabinetmaker to Louis XVI in 1774. He was Marie-Antoinette’s favourite cabinetmaker, providing furniture for her private apartments in several royal palaces. In the nineteenth century, his name became synonymous with craftsmanship and luxury, and all that was admired in French furniture. The Riesener furniture in the Wallace Collection is some of the most important in the world. It is also the single largest holding of furniture that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette outside France.
The Wallace Collection