The black-lacquered and ormolu-mounted commode was commissioned for Louis XV’s stepdaughter the Dauphine Marie-Therese Raphaelle of Spain and made by the celebrated cabinetmaker Bernard II van Risamburgh. But after being sold on multiple times following the Revolution its provenance was lost and it was sold to the US in the 1980s.
Its rediscovery as a piece from Versailles was made by Christie’s expert Patrick Leperlier in 1998 when the commode was already in the US and to be offered at auction. He spotted the number 1343 and traced it to the royal inventory where it matched a description of a commode delivered on January 23, 1745, to the ‘Chambre de la Dauphine’. Maria Theresa Raphaelle arrived a few days later.
After the discovery had been made an outcry in France questioned why the piece had ever been exported.
The Château de Versailles has agreed to buy it for €4m (£3.6m) from a private US collector. The purchase was funded with part of a donation from the late Jeanne Heymann who died in Monaco three years ago and left a considerable sum to the palace.
A spokesperson said: “The return of this piece of furniture, at the peak of the rococo style, to its historical location, represents an exceptional event for the Palace of Versailles.” It will be returned to the bedroom for which it was made.