An Exceptional Gilt-Bronze Mounted Marquetry Dressing Table by Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener.
Stamped ‘E. ZWIENER’.
Forming part of an important and very rare bedroom suite, comprised of an armoire, a double bed, and a dressing table , all with fine marquetry inlay.
This important and magnificent dressing table, exemplifies the furniture maker’s master artisanship and exhibits distinct similarities to another Zwiener bedroom suite, commissioned circa 1898 for Kaiser Wilhelm II, which is now in the permanent collection of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin.
Zwiener’s work is remarkable for its organic, sculptural quality. In this he demonstrates a tendency toward the principles of combining the traditional Louis XV rococo style of the 18th century with the ultra-modern, contemporary Art Nouveau, representing a careful balance between decorative and compositional vocabulary, the stylish and the functional.
Zwiener’s innovations are apparent in the detailing on this dressing table, such as in the flowery gilt-bronze borders of the end-cut marquetry reserves. On the dressing table it is interesting to note Léon Messagé’s signature ‘wing’ appears at the top of the swiveling mirror plate, identifying his work on the bronze designs of this suite, while foliate-scrolled candlearms emerge on both sides, and a cast foliate chute, headed by ram’s head, surfaces on each of the four table legs.
In 1895, Zwiener was summoned to Berlin at the request of German emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941) at Schloss Neues Palais, Sans Souci, Potsdam. Among the works the Kaiser would commission was a gilt-bronze mounted marquetry bedstead, circa 1895, with gilt-bronze work attributed not to Messagé, but to Otto Rohloff. This piece was exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900 [see: L’ Exposition de Paris, Encyclopédie du Siècle, Montgredien et Cie, (Paris),1900; Vol III, p. 288]
Although he admired the work of Parisian cabinetmakers, Kaiser Wilhelm II preferred the work of German craftsmen. Zwiener had produced a copy of a bureau du roi for Ludwig II in 1884, prior to receiving his summons from this Kaiser, but given that there were a number of notable German craftsmen working for the court at the time, Wilhelm’s interest in Zwiener was significant. Always keen to tout the ideals of a Franco-German unification, Wilhelm was probably intrigued by the fact that Zwiener, a German, had found such success in Paris. The Kaiser’s commission must have likewise been a strong inducement for Zwiener, who had spent so much of his professional life away from home.