Queen Marie-Antoinette's Desk Back in Versailles Palace


Nearly 222 years after the French Revolution, a desk made by royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener is back in the Versailles Palace after being acquired by the French state for 6.75 million Euros ($9.4 million).

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand on Monday officially turned over to the palace the elegant piece which has been classified as "a work of major cultural value".

The desk is composed of an apron with four drawers decorated with the four gilt-bronze low reliefs -- a trademark of the celebrated German cabinetmaker.

The purplewood, sycamore, and rosewood veneer is decorated with gilt bronze ornaments including the four low reliefs depicting allegories (Music twice, Painting, and Sculpture) and two escutcheons representing baskets of flowers.

The desk had been ordered for display in the Petit Hameau (The Little Hamlet), located in the English-style gardens of the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

But it will now be displayed in the private apartment where Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793), wife of King Louis XVI, used to entertain her children and friends.

At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the Versailles Palace's furniture was auctioned and more than 17,000 pieces were scattered around the world.

Many are now found in royal residences, particularly in Britain, or in major foreign museums, notably in the United States, or are owned by private collectors or antiquarians.

Riesener's desk was bought after negotiation from a major Parisian antiquarian and the acquisition was made possible through the patronage of LVMH, the world's top luxury retailer, and pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis.

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