National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Writing Table (table à écrire) Jean-Henri Riesener (cabinetmaker)
French, 1734 - 1806
Writing Table (table à écrire), 1784
veneered on oak with mahogany, sycamore, ebony, and boxwood
overall: 76 x 81.8 x 49.1 cm (29 15/16 x 32 3/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Widener Collection
On View
From the Tour: Neoclassical Decorative Arts of the Late 1700s
Object 3 of 6


Commissioned 1784 by Marie Antoinette, queen of France [1755-1793], for her apartments in the palais des Tuileries, Paris.[1] Possibly Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th marquess of Hertford [1800-1870], Paris; Mme Oger de Bréart [née Louise Suzanne de Bréart, d. 1886], Paris; (her sale, at her residence, Paris, 17-22 May 1886, no. 444, possibly bought in).[2] Alfred Louis Leboeuf de Montgermont [1841-1918], Paris; (his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 16-19 June 1919, 4th day, no. 380); (Jacques Seligmann & Fils, Paris and New York); sold 1 February 1923 to Joseph E. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;[3] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, after purchase by funds of the estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

[1] Pierre Verlet (French Royal Furniture: An historical survey followed by a study of forty pieces preserved in Great Britain and the United States, London, 1963: no. 25, 150-151) quotes the description of the table in Riesener's records, where it was order number 224, dated 28 May 1784. The table is also listed in inventories of the Tuilieries made in 1788 and 1790; the inscribed "no. 12" on the underside of the table corresponds to the table's description in the earlier inventory.

[2] In 1834 Louise Suzanne de Bréart, half-French, half-English, was deceived into a false marriage with Richard Seymour-Conway, Lord Yarmouth, later 4th marquess of Hertford and the virtual creator of the Wallace Collection in London. He established her in an apartment at 6 rue Lafitte, a few doors away from his own, and later bought her a small "château" in the Bois de Boulogne so she would be near him at the Château de Bagatelle, which he had purchased from the French Crown shortly before.

Mlle. de Bréart appears to have adopted the name "Mme Oger" merely to give an air of respectability to her relations with Lord Hertford, who is known to have given her many works of art, including fine French furniture. It is possible, therefore, that the table had earlier belonged that famous collector. The table can be seen in a photograph of a corner of Mme Oger's salon that is reproduced in the 1886 sale catalogue.

The purchaser's name at the 1886 sale is given as Mannheim, but as the dealer Charles Mannheim was the expert pour objects d'art at the sale, it is likely that the table was bought in. However, Jacques Seligmann (see note 3) wrote to Joseph Widener on 16 February 1923 that "the table was sold in a public sale and was bought by the father of Mannheim, the expert" (Box 6, Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; copy in NGA curatorial files).

[3] The Seligmann invoice to Joseph Widener is dated 1 February 1923 (Invoice Book, Box 310, Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; copy in NGA curatorial files). It includes the New York stock number "NY1193," the "1193" of which is penciled in the interior of the table's drawer.

Associated Names

Full Screen Image
Artist Information

«back to gallery»continue tour