French style furniture is a style of furniture that has been popular in Europe since the 18th century and is still used today. It was originally designed to imitate French designs and styles, but today it is also used to refer to any furniture that uses similar design elements.
The term “French” can be used as a modifier to describe any style or design element, such as French doors or French-style tables.
Famous German cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener produced work in Paris that was a prime example of the early neoclassical Louis XVI style. Riesener was born in Gladbeck, Westphalia, Germany.
He started providing furniture to the Crown in 1769, and in July 1774 he was formally recognised as the greatest Parisian ébéniste (cabinet maker) of the Louis XVI period by becoming the ébéniste ordinaire du roi. As the French court began undertaking furnishing projects on a lavish scale unseen since the reign of Louis XIV, Riesener was responsible for some of the most expensive examples of furniture in the Louis XVI style.
He made extensive use of floral and figural marquetry methods as well as gilt bronze mounts. With France on the verge of bankruptcy in 1784, the frequency of court commissions drastically decreased. Riesener’s final works for the court included restricted use of gilt-bronze mounts and sober but beautifully detailed West Indian mahogany veneers. Through the 1780s, Queen Marie Antoinette continued to like Riesener’s work.
Many of his creations had intricate mechanics that tilted reading stands or lifted or lowered table tops.
Riesener was hired by the Directory after the French Revolution and dispatched to Versailles in 1794 to remove the “insignia of feudality” from furniture he had just finished making. He destroyed himself by purchasing back furniture that was being sold at pitiful rates during the French Revolution. When he tried to resell his acquired stock, consumer preferences had changed and his previous customers had either dispersed or died.
Riesener had a brief secondary career in real estate speculation before his death in 1806 in Paris, being largely unknown.