National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Writing Table (table à écrire) Jean-Henri Riesener (artist)
French, 1734 - 1806
Writing Table (table à écrire), c. 1780
veneered on oak with mahogany, sycamore, purplewood, boxwood, ebony, and holly; gilded bronze mounts
overall: 78.9 x 81.9 x 49.5 cm (31 1/16 x 32 1/4 x 19 1/2 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.409
On View
From the Tour: Neoclassical Decorative Arts of the Late 1700s
Object 4 of 6

At a quick glance, this lady's writing table, signed underneath with Riesener's stamp, appears identical to a writing table of 1784 by the same artist, which was owned by Queen Marie Antoinette. In 1774 Riesenser was appointed the official cabinetmaker to Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

Each table has a wide writing slide on the front and a single deep drawer on one side. The gilt-bronze spiral ribbings, which cause both tables' legs to shimmer in the light, are so much alike that they must have been cast from the same molds.

Distinction, however, is gained in several ways. Whereas all four sides of the queen's table bear gilded plaques representing cupids, this table is ornamented with scrolling panels of classical acanthus foliage centered on sunflowers. Gilded metal covers all fronts of the queen's table, while here, much of each front is veneer that repeats the diamond or trellis pattern created on the tabletop by parallel, triple stripes of wood.

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