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Martin-Guillaume Biennais (1764 - 1843)

Martin-Guillaume Biennais was born into a modest family in the Orne region (Lower Normandy), in 1764. He was trained as a craftsman and settled in Paris in 1788 as a tablet-maker, i.e., a carver of small wooden or ivory objects. Legend has it that he gave General Bonaparte credit when the latter wanted to set up house on his return from Egypt. In exchange for this trust, his fortune was made, since Bonaparte made it possible for him to extend his activities to goldsmithery and called upon his services during the Consulate. He commissioned the regalia used at his coronation, in 1804, from Biennais and finally appointed him First Goldsmith. Members of the imperial family and high-ranking court officials became his clientele. Biennais opened shop in the Rue Saint-Honoré, under the sign Au singe violet, where, as his success continued to grow, he employed a large number of workmen.