He took a bunch of keys from is pocket, and opened one of the drawers in the Riesener table. As he did so, the drawer, under a stream of sunset light from the window beyond it, seemed to give out a many-coloured flash a rapid Irislike effect, lost in a moment. The impression made on Undershaw was that the drawer already contained gems like those in the case or jewels or both.
Riesener, the celebrated ébeniste, whose work we have described in the chapter on Louis Seize furniture, and David, the famous painter of the time, both served on this Commission, of which they must have been valuable members. There is a passage quoted by Mr. C. Perkins, the American translator of Dr.
Make haste! or Germany or America will grab them." But the amethyst Medusa lay safe in her green case in the drawer of the Riesener table. Duddon Castle in May was an agreeable place.
Without doubt, the most important example of meubles de luxe of this reign is the famous "Bureau du Roi," made for Louis XV. in 1769, and which appears fully described in the inventory of the "Garde Meuble" in the year 1775, under No. 2541. This description is very minute, and is fully quoted by M. Williamson in his valuable work, "Les Meubles d'Art du Mobilier National," and occupies no less than thirty-seven lines of printed matter. Its size is five-and-a-half feet long and three feet deep; the lines are the perfection of grace and symmetry; the marqueterie is in Riesner's best manner; the mountings are magnificent reclining figures, foliage, laurel wreaths, and swags, chased with rare skill; the back of this famous bureau is as fully decorated as the front: it is signed "Riesener, f.e., 1769,
The white panelling of the walls was broken here and there by a mirror, or a girandole, delicate work of the same date as the Riesener table; while halfway down two Rose du Barri tapestries faced each other, glowing in the June sun. It was all spacious a little empty the whole conception singularly refined the colour lovely. Melrose stalked on, silently, pulling at his beard.
The character of his work is less forcible than that of Caffieri, and comes nearer to what we shall presently recognise as the Louis Seize, or Marie Antoinette style, to which period his work more properly belongs: in careful finish of minute details, it more resembles the fine goldsmith's work of the Renaissance. Made for Louis XV. by Riesener.
He took out the letter, and dropped it into the midst of the burning logs before him. Then he turned to a heap of sale catalogues lying near him, and after going through them, he rose, and as though drawn to it by a magnetic power, he went to the Riesener table, and unlocked the drawer which held the gems.
It is only later that the word "menuisier," or joiner, appears, and we must enter upon the period of the Renaissance before we find the term "cabinet maker," and later still, after the end of the seventeenth century, we have such masters of their craft as Riesener described as "ebenistes," the word being derived from ebony, which, with other eastern woods, came into use after the Dutch settlement in Ceylon.
Riesener, Roentgen, Gouthiére, Fragonard and Boucher are some of the names that stand out most distinctly as authors of the beautiful decorations of the time. Marie Antoinette's boudoir at Fontainebleau is a perfect example of the style and many of the other rooms both there and at the Petit Trianon show its great beauty, gayety and dignity combined with its richness and magnificence.
On the threshold Faversham turned, and gave one last look at the dark figure of Melrose, and the medley of objects surrounding it; at Madame Elisabeth's Sèvres vases, on the upper shelf of the Riesener table; at the Louis Seize clock, on the panelled wall, which was at that moment striking eight.