A Lacquer Connection
In 1781, the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, received her mother’s last gift. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had left her daughter 75 Japanese lacquer pieces, ranging from lamps to plates. In late 18th century France, lacquer was a highly coveted material and a gift as considerable as Maria Theresa’s was incredibly prestigious. Marie Antoinette was so impressed by the gift that she had her personal designer Richard Mique completely redesign her personal chambers at Versailles and commissioned a new furniture set by Jean-Henri Riesener to display the new pieces.
In contemporary times, the lacquer pieces remain in Versailles’s collection and two of the Riesener furniture pieces live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This video illustrates a touching mother-daughter story, which is highlighted by and enabled through these lacquer objects and the deeper meaning which Marie Antoinette and Maria Theresa placed in them.
Video by Elenita Nicholas, a Columbia University master’s student in Museum Anthropology and founder of Makani Media.