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Jewel coffer and secrétaire
  • Jewel coffer and secrétaire
    Riesener, Jean-Henri, born 1734 - died 1806
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Jewel coffer and secrétaire

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1775-1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Riesener, Jean-Henri, born 1734 - died 1806 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Veneered in grey-stained sycamore, with marquetry of other woods, on a carcase of oak

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA13 []

This is one of the most exquisitely made pieces of furniture in the V&A's collections. The small drawers and compartments are made with extreme care and the outside is veneered with the highest-quality marquetry and set with gilt-bronze mounts that are almost as finely finished as jewellery.

It was made in about 1775–1780 in Paris by the royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener, but unfortunately it is not known for whom it was made. Riesener’s name is stamped in three places underneath the stand, as was required by the guild of cabinetmakers in Paris at the time. It combines a jewel coffer with the fittings for a small secrétaire, and one side hinges down to provide a writing surface. The coffer is fitted with many trays and with a number of secret drawers, some of which were not discovered until the 1990s.

Physical description

A jewel coffer and secrétaire on tall stand, veneered in trellis marquetry in sycamore, stained grey, with trellis in bois satiné and boxwood, with further marquetry in ebony, boxwood, tulipwood and purpleheart; mounts of gilt bronze. The inner trays are lined with silk and one side hinges down to allow the piece to be used for writing

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1775-1780 (made)


Riesener, Jean-Henri, born 1734 - died 1806 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Veneered in grey-stained sycamore, with marquetry of other woods, on a carcase of oak

Marks and inscriptions

Stamped three times on the underside of the stand, once on the front rail and twice, very indistinctly and partly overlapping, on one side rail


Height: 106 cm overall, Width: 54.2 cm stand, Depth: 34.7 cm stand, Height: 35 cm jewel coffer, Width: 50.2 cm jewel coffer, Depth: 31.3 cm jewel coffer, Height: 70.8 cm stand

Object history note

Acquired by John Jones before 1882

Descriptive line

Jewel coffer and secrétaire, veneered in trellis marquetry of sycamore and other woods on a carcase of oak; mounts of gilt bronze, made in Paris, 1775-1780

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Elizabeth Miller and Hilary Young, eds., The Arts of Living. Europe 1600-1815. V&A Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978 1 85177 807 2, illustrated p. 128
Victoria and Albert Museum. Fifty Masterpieces of Woodwork. London: HMSO, 1955, no. 49
Sargentson, Carolyn, 'Looking at Furniture Inside Out: Strategies of Secrecy and Security in Eighteenth-Century French Furniture', in Furnishing the Eighteenth Century. What Furniture Can Tell Us about the European and American Past, ed. Dena Goodman and Kathryn Norberg. New York and London: Routledge, 2007 (ISBN 10:0-415-94953-X), pp. 205-236, this piece discussed on pp. 210-221, and illustrated further in colour plates after p. 118

Labels and date

Jewel coffer and desk (secrétaire)
About 1775–80

For this small but exquisite piece Riesener combined intricate marquetry decoration, grey and yellow when the woods were new, with finely finished gilded metal mounts. It is filled with numerous trays and hidden compartments. Although we do not know its original owner, she must have been of the highest rank.

France (Paris)
By Jean-Henri Riesener
Oak, pine and walnut, veneered with purpleheart and tulipwood; marquetry in European and tropical woods; gilded copper alloy mounts
Bequeathed by John Jones
Conservation supported by Charles Cator through the Monument Trust [09/12/2015]
[Label text by Peter Thornton for Gallery 5]

Jewel Casket on stand
French (Paris); about 1780
Stamped 'J.H. Riesener'

Veneered with mahogany, sycamore and purplewood. Gilt bronze mounts. Fitted with trays. The falling front reveals several drawers. Three keys are needed to operate the intricate locks.

Jean-Henri Riesener, who became official cabinet-maker to the French Court in 1774, produced a table with similar parquetry for the use of Marie-Antoinette in 1778.

Jones Collection
Museum No. 1106-1882 [1980]


Oak; Sycamore; Bois satiné; Boxwood; Ebony; Purplewood; Tulipwood; Gilt bronze; Silk


Cabinet-making; Veneering; Marquetry; Casting; Chasing; Gilding

Subjects depicted





Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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