A Louis XVI - à encadrements - bonheur du jour by Adam Weisweiler. This is a rare and fine Louis XVI piece of furniture, a ormolu-mounted satin-wood, amaranth and white marble bonheur du jour. The rectangular white marble top above an overhanging cornice and three cupboards doors enclosing a shelf, a frieze drawer with leather-lined slide and four small cupboards, on four fluted legs joined by a white marble shelf, terminating in fluted feet.
Adam Weisweiler (1744 - 15th June 1820), the ebenist, is received Master the 26 March 1778. Like so many other important ébénistes of the period, Adam Weisweiler is originated from the Rhineland. Concerning his apprenticeship and the date of his arrival in Paris we know nothing. The tradition that he was trained in Roetgen's workshop at Neuwied is not based on any evidence, at the same time it is worth noting the proximity of Neuwied to his birthplace of Korschenbroich. One thing is certain : in 1777, when he married, he was already established in Paris, in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and is described in the marriage-contract as - ébéniste working for the mastership. He became a master in the following year on 26 March 1778. The groom, thirty-three years old, contributed 1,500 livres of - clothes, furniture, linen, personal apparel and cash from his earnings - as well as a fixed dowry of 500 livres, indicating that he had been working to save money for some time. The couple moved into 67 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a house in which he remained until 1797. It was therefore in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine that all Weisweiler's work was carried out. This artisan quarter, which sheltered the greatest concentration of ébénistes in the capital, was far removed from the centres of luxury commerce situated in the rue Saint-Honoré near the Louvre, and it is probable that Weisweiler was not then in personal contact with his elegant clientèle.
Most of his output was sold through the intermediary of the marchand-merciers, or fellow-ébénistes of renown such as Riesener or Benneman. The few documented pieces by Weisweiler were almost all supplied by the marchand-mercier Daguerre who must have had a quasi-monopoly over Weisweiler's luxury pieces: for example, the lacquer table supplied in 1784 for Marie-Antoinette at Versailles and later placed at Saint-Cloud or the lacquer secrétaire of the same year for Louis XVI's Cabinet Intérieur at Versailles, or the mahogany commode of 1788 with three panels for the Cabinet Intérieur of Louis XVI at Saint-Cloud. More-over, if a study is made of Daguerre's invoices, not only to the Garde-Meuble Royal but also to his private clients between the years 1784 and 1790, it will be seen that the descriptions correspond mostly to furniture by Weisweiler; as Carlin, Daguerre's principal supplier, had died in 1785, Weisweiler must have stepped into his shoes. The stylistic similarities between the work of Carlin and Weisweiler are striking enough to make one wonder if the latter might even have been trained by his older colleague. Another hypothesis between the two craftsmen had their origins in Daguerre, who must have provided both with the designs for the furniture and models of the bronze mounts, porcelain plaques and panels of lacquer and pietra-dura.
Weisweiler's clientèle was therefore essentially that of Daguerre: the French royal family, the nobility (the Duc d'Aiguillon, the Marquise de Brunoy, the Maréchal de Castries, the Duc de Guiche, the Duchesse de Fitzjames, the Comtesse Diane de Polignac) and foreign royalty (the Queen of Naples, Maria-Carolina owed Daguerre 14,225 and the King of Naples 5,977 livres). These large sums certainly correspond to the black-lacquer pieces today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which originally stood in Caserta : they appear in the old inventories of the palace, and when they were sold by the Italian royal family they were replaced with copies which have mahogany borders around the lacquer panels. The Russian Court was also among his clients, as is indicated by the porcelain-mounted secrétaire formerly at Pavlovsk, acquired by Maria Fyodorovan during or after her stay in Paris in 1782 under the pseudonym of - Comtesse du Nord. An account of this trip is given in the memoirs of the Baronne d'Oberkirch, in which she recorded that the Comtesse du Nord bought numerous pieces of furniture Bijoux and porcelain from the marchands-merciers, among them Daguerre. Several pieces today at Pavlovsk or in the Hermitage must be attributed to Weisweiler. Decorated with Wedgwood plaques, they date from after 1783 and correspond to those sent by Daguerre to the Russian Court after the Comtesse du Nord's visit to Paris. In England, Lord Malmesbury and Lady Holderness were Daguerre's clients, and above all the Prince of Wales, the future Georges IV, for whom he furnished Carlton house in the 1780s with pieces in chinoiserie and arabesque style.
Beside Daguerre, Weisweiler probably worked for the marchand-mercier Julliot, making sumptuous pieces for him incorporating pietra-dura, of which the latter had made a speciality. The drawing in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for a commode in pietra-dura entirely in Weisweiler's style was made in 1784 - under the direction of Julliot the Younger. Pieces by Weisweiler can be identified among the four commodes with panels of pietra-dura that figured in Julliot's forced sale in 1802. At least during the first part of his career, from 1778 to 1785, Weisweiler must have worked with Riesener. The presence of both stamps on certain pieces of furniture illustrates the problem of joint authorship. It is clear that it was Weisweiler who was the author of the pieces (sometimes in his own style and sometimes that of Riesener), and Riesener who sold them on. Between the years 1778 and 1785 Riesener was the height of his success. Overwhelmed with orders, from the royal family as well as private clients, he had to subcontract in order to keep abreast of his affairs.
After 1785 a working partnership developed with Benneman. Their stamps are to be found side by side on several pieces of furniture (Weisweiler-Benneman). For example, their joint stamps have been found on a mahogany long-case clock and barometer that belonged to Marie-Antoinette, as well as the two pairs of consoles shown at. The hypothesis that the two ébénistes worked side by side seems unrealistic. That this marks a repair by one of them is equally unacceptable for chronological reasons. There remains the explanation that one stamped the other's work at the time of resale. As these pieces are entirely in Weisweiler's style it must be accepted that they were made by him and supplied by Benneman.
In 1797, he bought another house, no. 176 rue des Tournelles, into which he moved. It had a shop and Weisweiler now became a dealer in fine furniture. As Daguerre had died in 1794, Weisweiler had probably decided to sell his furniture himself. At the same time he also worked for Thomire and Duterne. The workshop was fitted with six large workbenches and two smaller ones, indicating that he must have employed at least eight workmen. In 1812 Weisweiler sold his house in the rue des Tournelles and moved to an apartment in the same street. The inventory after his death makes no mention of any ébéniste's tools which he must therefore have sold in the interim.
Commodes à vantaux
Commodes à vantaux (with panels) made up the major part of his output. Of the fifty commodes listed by Patricia Lemonnier, forty-three have panels, while only seven are fitted with drawers. These commodes were usually made with three panels of which only two opened, the central panel moving across the right-hand panel by means of a flying hinge. Weisweiler made numerous examples of this type in mahogany or in burr-thuya and a number decorated with lacquer or pietra-dura. The advantage of the commode à vantaux is that the panels of lacquer or pietra-dura are not disfigured by the interruption of drawers or keyholes. This type of furniture was called a - commode à brisure.
Secrétaires en cabinet
Secrétaires - en cabinet - were another of Weisweiler's specialities. Daguerre must surely have designed the prototype as Carlin made a good number before 1785 and Weisweiler merely carried on Carlin's production. This piece of furniture, which owed so much to both the jewel-cabinet in its minute size and exquisite detail, and to the secrétaire à abattant in its fitted interior and its function as a writing-table, enjoyed great popularity as a lady's desk between 1770 and 1800. Of 37 secrétaires listed by Patricia Lemonnier, 28 are - en cabinet - while six are - en armoire - (with fall-front), and only three are of the cylinder type. These cabinets are mostly decorated with porcelain plaques painted with vases of flowers and sometimes with Wedgwood medallions. One of this type was owned by Marie-Antoinette; Mme Campan mentions it briefly in her memoirs and it can be identified today as one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, described in Les Affiches, annonces et avis divers des ventes révolutionnaires. Certain other secrétaires are also decorated with precious panels in Japanese lacquer such as those belonging to the Queen of Naples, Maria-Carolina. Veneered side-tables made by ébénistes were a new development and replaced the traditional console made by the menuisier as part of the panelling in the salon. Weisweiler produced some very varied examples, including consoles with drawers in the frieze and fretwork stretchers, which were no more than display pieces, and consoles with several marble shelves designed as side-tables for the dining-room.
Guéridons et Consoles Dessertes
Finally, commissioned by Daguerre, Weisweiler produced numerous small pieces of ladies'furniture: work-tables, tea-tables, writing-tables, bonheurs-du-jour, decorated with precious materials, lacquer, porcelain, ebony or Wedgwood biscuit. He designed a particular type of guéridon supported on gilt-bronze columns imitating bamboo, with a stand in burr-thuya decorated with Wedgwood plaques. Marquetry is almost completely absent from Weisweiler's work. He preferred to use a combination of sombre veneers such as ebony or mahogany. Geometric marquetry is found on the sides of the secrétaire from Pavlovsk and on a table in the Wallace Collection: these are almost the only examples. The effect of his furniture arises above all from the richness and quality of its gilt-bronze decoration. Mounts are frequently designed as arabesques with facing goats, a mask of Apollo, or child satyrs playing the trumpet. These decorative elements, as well as the frieze of acanthus leaves, are almost hallmarks of Weisweiler's work. The precense of caryatids at the corners of the most luxurious pieces is another stylistic signature: most of them are in the form of female figures in classical dress without arms and with braided hair. These models date from after 1784 as we find them for the first time on a lacquer table at Saint-Cloud. Daguerre's invoice reveals that the ornaments were - specially commissioned. Yet the models for these mounts definitely belonged to Daguerre as they are found on a few examples by other ébénistes, such as a console in the British Royal Collection stamped by Carlin and a secrétaire by Levasseur in the Louvre. Weisweiler did not therefore have exclusive use of them. For royal commissions thes caryatids were varied in detail.
On the lacquer secrétaire for Louis XVI at Versailles, they have raised arms. On the porcelain-mounted secrétaire belonging to the Queen, they take the form of hermas, without arms, and with feet below. They all carry baskets of fruit which serve as capitals. The commodes, which demanded a more robust type of caryatid, also have plump children with raised arms. Sometimes they are replaced by small composite columns in the Chinese taste, twisted at the base and of fluted baluster shape higher up, which are also characteristic of Weisweiler's work. Brass-reeded plaques were not Weisweiler's exclusive prerogative but they are almost always used on the bases of his commodes. Finally, on all his furniture, panels are surrounded by gilt-bronze frames which range from plain mouldings or beading on simple furniture to friezes with undulating motifs. The general impression, even on the largest pieces by Weisweiler, is of lightness bordering on fragility. The detached columns at the corners, the toupie feet and the frail bracketed stands accentuate this impression of fragility enhanced by precious materials such as Japanese lacquer and porcelain plaques.
Really good condition
Weisweiler, Patricia Lemonnier, Editions d'art Monelle Hayot, Paris - 1983. Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIème Siècle, Pierre Kjellberg, Les Éditions de l'Amateur - 2002. French Furniture Makers, Alexandre Pradère, Société Nouvelle des Editions du Chêne - 1989.