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Bonheur du jour

Bonheur du jour

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Vandercruse Lacroix, Roger (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oak carcase with mahogany drawers, veneered with tulipwood and marquetry of satinwood and pearwood, with gilt bronze mounts

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    1116:1 to 5-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case FS, shelf BY WW []

This type of ladies’ writing desk, known as a bonheur du jour, was introduced in Paris from the 1760s by the marchands-merciers, who acted in a dual capacity as interior decorators and purveyors of fashionable, decorative commodities.

Bonheurs du jour quickly became extremely fashionable among the polite classes.
This example bears all the qualities of its type: a light and graceful construction, raised back which forms either a set of drawers, shelves, or in this case two cupboards separated by a drawer, and a decorated back, since the desks rarely stood against a wall and were often moved about the room. The top, which is decorated with an ormolu Chinese fretted three-quarter gallery, was used for displaying ornaments, while the single drawer below was used for storing writing materials or toiletries.
The slender, cabriole legs on this desk indicate that it was made in the period before 1775. Subsequently, the influence of neoclassicism meant that those made after 1775 tended to have straight, tapering legs.

Physical description

A writing table and cabinet (Bonheur du jour) of oak carcase and mahogany drawers, veneered with tulipwood and marquetry of various woods, including satinwood and pearwood, and with gilt bronze mounts.
The cabinet consists of two cupboards divided by a drawer with a recessed space above. The two cupboards open onto a plain interior divided by a shelf, and with a shallow drawer at the bottom of each. The table has a drawer beneath the top, and is supported on hipped and curved legs, the tray or shelf below acting as a stretcher. All the surfaces are ornamented in marquetry imitative of the Chinese in style and subject.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca.1775 (made)

Artist/maker

Vandercruse Lacroix, Roger (maker)

Materials and Techniques

oak carcase with mahogany drawers, veneered with tulipwood and marquetry of satinwood and pearwood, with gilt bronze mounts

Dimensions

Height: 103.5 cm, Width: 79 cm, Depth: 42.5 cm

Object history note

In the collection of John Jones, 95 Piccadilly, by 1882, when it was bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum, forerunner of the V&A.

A bonheur du jour of similar form and marquetry (but with heavy, oval mounts to the the marquetry on the doors to either side of the superstructure, is illustrated in Seymour de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, (Stuttgart, Julius Hoffmann, n.d., 1930s ?), p. 135. It is said to have come from Schloss Oberkirch in Alsace.

Descriptive line

Small writing table with superstructure, often called a bonheur du jour, with marquetry of Chinese pots, writing equipment and tea bowls.

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

W.G. Paulson Townsend, Measured Drawings of French Furniture in the South Kensington Museum (London 1899), part 3, plates 23-26
Boutemy, André, Meubles Français Anonymes du XVIIIe Siècle. Brussels: Editions de l'Université, 1973, pp. 21-23.

Labels and date

Writing table with raised compartments (bonheur du jour)
About 1775

Roger Vandercruse was a successful cabinet-maker in Paris, who sometimes supplied pieces to the royal cabinet-maker Gilles Joubert. For Parisian customers, Vandercruse specialised in small pieces, often sold through the marchands-merciers, dealers in luxury goods. Writing tables were among his most popular products. This was because letter-writing was an important activity, the social networking of the age.

France (Paris)
Possibly by Roger Vandercruse, known as Lacroix
Oak veneered with tulipwood; marquetry in European and tropical hardwoods; gilded copper alloy mounts
Bequeathed by John Jones
[09/12/2015]

Materials

Tulipwood; Satinwood; Pearwood; Ormolu; Oak; Mahogany; Gilt bronze

Techniques

Marquetry; Veneering; Gilding

Production Type

small batch

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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