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Writing desk

Writing desk

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1860 (made)

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This desk and its pair were made in England in around the 1860s, in a Louis XVI style. The desks were bequeathed to Museum in 1882, as part of a large collection given by the military tailor John Jones. Through the second half of the 19th century, the demand for 18th-century French objects among collectors like Jones led to the creation of many copies. Jones bought some reproductions of 18th-century objects. His collection also included pieces that had been made up in the 19th century, using 18th-century parts. After the Jones bequest came to the V&A, measured drawings were published of parts of the furniture collection. These allowed objects from the Jones collection to be reproduced commercially by contemporary cabinetmakers.

Physical description

Writing desk formed of two cases. The main case, which sits on four legs, is built separately from the smaller upper case. The join between the two cases is traced by a brass moulding. Brass mouldings also outline the sides and back of the lower case, and the back of the upper case.

Both cases are mounted with soft-paste porcelain plaques, painted with baskets of flowers inside turquoise and gold borders. A leather-covered writing flap folds out from the top of the lower case. Both cases are fitted with two drawers - on the upper case these are separated by a central compartment with door.

The case is of oak, veneered on all sides in sycamore. The top edges of the drawers and central compartment are veneered with purplewood. A marble slab sits on top of the upper case, inside a brass gallery.

Place of Origin

England (probably, made)


1860 (made)

Object history note

This desk was given to the South Kensington Museum in 1882 as part of the John Jones bequest. John Jones was a military tailor who amassed a large collection of French 18th-century decorative and fine arts. Alongside important 18th-century objects, Jones owned several 19th-century pieces made in an 18th-century style.

Historical context note

This desk is of a type known as a bonheur-du-jour. The bonheur-du-jour is characterised by the combination of a lower case with writing surface, and smaller upper casecontaining drawers. It was a model that became popular in Paris in the 1760s. This desk, probably made in England in the 1860s, highlights the mid 19th-century fashion for Louis XVI style furniture.

Descriptive line

Writing desk mounted with porcelain plaques. One of a pair, probably English, Louis XVI style


Oak; Sycamore; Purplewood; Brass; Porcelain; Marble


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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