Weisweiler, Adam (French, 1744-1820)

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Adam Weisweiler (c. 1750 – c. 1810) was a preeminent French master cabinet maker (ébéniste) in the Louis XVI period. His works were commissioned and enjoyed by an elite international clientele, which included the most prestigious European royalty and nobility of the time.

Of German descent, Weisweiler is thought to have been born in Neuwied-am-Rhein. Little is known about his early training, although it is likely that Weisweiler was an apprentice to David Roentgen, who would later become cabinet maker to French Queen Marie-Antoinette. Records show that Weisweiler was established as a craftsman in Paris by 1777, the year of his marriage. The artisan received the title of master cabinetmaker (maître-ébéniste) in March 1778, joining a renowned group of German craftsmen working for royal European patrons in the French style.

From his workshop on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Weisweiler predominantly operated through marchands-merciers. These middlemen could supply craftsmen such as Weisweiler with the high quality materials required for their refined works. On completion, the marchands-merciers would then sell the artisanal works to members of the European aristocracy. It is through marchands-mercier Dominique Daguerre, for example, that Weisweiler supplied the famous writing table of steel, Japanese lacquer, ebony and gilt bronze to Queen Marie-Antoinette for her residence at the Château de Saint-Cloud in 1784. Other clientele of Weisweiler included the King of Naples and England's Prince Regent (later King George IV).

Weisweiler set his exceptional furniture with plain veneers and fine lacquer, sometimes using panels of pietra dura or Sèvres porcelain to decorate pieces. His works are characterised by their elegant Neoclassical style, which takes inspiration from the symmetrical forms of ancient architecture. Most distinctive are those pieces that are rendered in the Etruscan style, the decoration of which often includes twisted columns or female caryatid figures and frieze reliefs of traditional Classical motifs.

Unlike other luxury furniture makers of the Ancien Régime, Weisweiler managed to survive the turbulence of the French Revolution. In the early 19th Century, Weisweiler supplied furniture to Queen Hortense and the Bonaparte family. Further prestigious commissions included those for the Prince of Wales and Duke of Northumberland. After his retirement, Weisweiler’s son Jean continued to run the business until 1844.

Weisweiler’s fine craftsmanship continues to impress and many of his works remain situated in highly prestigious settings, such as London’s Buckingham Palace and the Louvre Museum in Paris.