Of German origin, Guillaume Beneman worked as a non-guild member on rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine. He received orders from the Royal Garde-Meuble, even before obtaining his master's in 1785. Rapidly displacing Jean-Henri Riesener as ordinary cabinet-maker to the Crown furniture, he produced luxurious house fittings for the ceremonial apartments starting with the flat desk for Louis XVI's library at Fontainebleau (Musée du Louvre, inv. OA 5329), the commode executed for Madame Thierry de Ville d'Avray's bedroom in Paris (Musée du Louvre, inv. OA 5504). Other productions of more modest proportions and simpler lines, like the commode delivered in 1787 for the Dauphin's bedroom at Versailles (Versailles Château and Trianon, inv. V 5370), demonstrate his expertise.
Mahogany remained the wood essence that he used most frequently, allowing contrasts with the applied bronzes. He then collaborated with renowned bronze artisans such as Thomire, Ravrio, Forestier, and Feuchère. The important frieze of acanthus foliage and grained vine-tendrils present in the upper part of our commode-secretary is a model similar to one he used for two of the commodes that he transformed in 1786 under Jean Hauré's direction for the Queen's bedroom at Château of Fontainebleau (inv. OA 5301 and 5302). The rodding with waterleaves outlining the drawers are frequent in his work. The secretary and the commode from the Hermitage Palace in St. Petersburg, sold by Sotheby's, London on 17 April 1964, lots 117 and 118, also prove this usage.
Beneman collaborated for this secrétaire en commode with Victor-Jean-Gabriel Chavignau, a cabinetmaker who worked rue de Charonne and who always used high quality of mahogany veneers.
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