Furniture with secrets and secrets of Furniture

Exhibition
from 17/11/2018 to 10/03/2019
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This exhibition showcases a marvellous genre of clever and secretive furniture suitable for storing private papers and valuables, away from prying eyes – it is this type of furniture that came into fashion in 18th-century homes: in particular, the secretary-desk.

The ingenuity of the cabinetmakers at the end of the Ancien Régime, combined with the German taste for mechanical furniture, gave rise to skilful creations, sometimes very mysterious. This taste persisted into the 19th century, as brilliantly demonstrated by the chest of drawers and the secretary of cabinetmaker Simon-Nicolas Mansion (1773-1854), presented to Napoleon I on his birthday in August 1806 by the Municipal Corps. Alongside these imposing pieces of furniture, small travel nécessaires also meet this urgent need for secrecy and concealed drawers or morocco gussets.

But the secret of a piece of furniture is also based on the mysteries surrounding its design. An enigmatic piece of furniture, atypical in its form, function or ornamentation, it can be a challenge to the furniture historian seeking to unravel the secret of its manufacture.

The exhibition includes an important multimedia infrastructure, allowing the various moving parts of the presented art objects to be seen in movement. It is present throughout the various rooms of the museum, alongside the works highlighted. Part of the exhibition will be devoted to the restoration of the secretary by Biennais, an operation that has made it possible to unlock the secrets of all of its mysterious hiding places.

The furniture belonging to Malmaison’s collections is joined by other items borrowed from public or private collections (Fondation Napoléon, Collection Hermès…).

Curator: Isabelle Tamisier-Vétois, chief heritage curator in charge of decorative arts at the Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison & Bois-Préau.

Press release in French

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