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Writing table

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1755-1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Veneered in tulipwood and kingwood on a carcase of oak and poplar, with floral marquetry; mounts of lacquered brass

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    1019:1 to 6-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY7, shelf EXP []

Between about 1750 and 1800 French cabinetmakers developed many designs for delicate, small writing tables for use by women. These might be finished with lacquer or fine marquetry, as on this table, and were sometimes set with porcelain plaques.

This table uses a special technique of marquetry called ‘bois de bout’, for which the veneers were sliced across the grain of small branches, rather than from planks. This 'end-grain' marquetry used the concentric growth rings of the wood to suggest the markings of flowers.

The technique was much used by the celebrated cabinet-maker Bernard II Van Risamburgh, who stamped his wares with the mark 'BVRB'. He made a number of tables of this form but in higher quality. This was probably made by a cabinet-maker taking up a technique that he had made popular.

Physical description

Small lady's writing table, veneered in tulipwood and kingwood, with some use of mahogany and possibly purplewood, on a carcase of oak and poplar, with lacquered brass mounts. The table is raised on four tall, cabriole legs, and is fitted with three drawers (one at the side fitted for writing materials) and a writing slide, the drawers lined with turquoise watered silk edged with silver braid, the writing slide set with a central panel of green leather. The low shelf linking the legs was probably added in the nineteenth century and the lining of the drawers undertaken at that time.

The table is veneered with flower sprays and foliage in end-grain (bois de bout) marquetry in purplewood (?) or kingwood. The marquetry is set more or less symmetrically round a central vertical line on each side, the design running across the drawer fronts on the front and sides. The marquetry ground of tulipwood is set with the grain running diagonally, book-matched on either side of the central vertical line on the sides and top. The edges of the panels and legs are cross banded with diagonally set kingwood, so that the lacquered brass mounts show against the darker ground. On the top, the banding is repeated to form an inner panel and the areas of framing are also set with end-grain floral marquetry.

The inner edges of the legs are set with continuous plain, profiled mouldings of lacquered brass, the outer edges of hte legs with ridged mouldings below elongated mounts cast with scrolls set symmetrically, enclosing flowers. The edge moulding to the top is deeper, covering the depth of the top and plainly moulded. The keyholse escutcheons are cast with rococo scrolls, those on the two topmost drawers of different form, with an integral loop handle. The foot mounts are composed of rococo scrolls, with piercings.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1755-1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Veneered in tulipwood and kingwood on a carcase of oak and poplar, with floral marquetry; mounts of lacquered brass

Dimensions

Height: 76.2 cm, Width: 48.3 cm top, Width: 48.5 cm at feet, Depth: 35.4 cm top, Depth: 33 cm feet

Object history note

In the collection of John Jones, 95 Piccadilly, before 1882. No earlier history recorded.

Descriptive line

Small lady's writing table, with three drawers, raised on tall cabriole legs, the whole veneered in tulipwood and kingwood with end-grain (bois de bout) marquetry of flowers, set with gilt-brass mounts. French, about 1755-1760, the shelf joining the legs at low level possibly added in the 19th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Connoisseur, June 1931, vol. LXXXVII, pp. 354-7.
Bouthemy, A., Meubles Français Anonyme. Brussels: Éditions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 1973, pp. 214-217

Labels and date

LADY'S WRITING DESK
FRENCH (Paris); 1755-1765

Veneered with tulipwood inlaid with kingwood. Lacquered brass mounts. The tray is possibly an addition.

This is a simplified version of a form of table made in large numbers by Bernard van Risamburgh.

Jones Collection Museum. no. 10179-1882

[label by Peter Thornton] [1971]
Writing table
About 1755

France (Paris)
Carcase: oak and poplar
Marquetry: tulipwood and kingwood
Mounts: gilded brass

Lower shelf possibly added in the 19th century

Bequeathed by John Jones
Museum no. 1019-1882

This table uses a special monochrome technique of marquetry in which end-grain (bois de bout) veneers are sawn across the grain of small branches. The surface was first veneered all over in pale tulipwood. The darker motifs in kingwood veneers were then arranged on the tulipwood, and a shoulder knife used to cut a recess into which they were glued. [01/12/2012]

Materials

Oak; Tulipwood; Kingwood; Gilt brass; Silk; Poplar; Leather; Purplewood

Techniques

Cabinet-making; Veneering; Marquetry; Casting; Chasing

Subjects depicted

Flowers

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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