National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Roll-top Desk (Bureau à cylindre) Jean-Henri Riesener (artist)
French, 1734 - 1806
Roll-top Desk (Bureau à cylindre), c. 1775/1785
veneered on oak principally with tulipwood and purplewood, with ebony (or wood stained to resemble ebony) and boxwood for stringing; gilded bronze mounts
overall: 121.3 x 128.2 x 78.2 cm (47 3/4 x 50 1/2 x 30 13/16 in.) overall (depth of table top): 34.8 cm (13 11/16 in.) overall (height to table top): 76.2 cm (30 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.410
Not on View
From the Tour: Neoclassical Decorative Arts of the Late 1700s
Object 2 of 6

This rolltop desk is stamped underneath by Jean-Henri Riesener, one of the greatest Parisian cabinetmakers. After his master Jean-François Oeben died in 1763, Riesener inherited the studio and, five years later, married Oeben's widow.

The rolltop desk was introduced about 1760 by Oeben. The top of this one includes a tilting, adjustable easel, so that a gentleman could stand to read or write. Wide writing slides and long drawers with inkwells are concealed on both sides, providing work space for two male secretaries.

Mountings with neoclassical motifs of circular laurel wreaths and symmetrical sprays of acanthus foliage enhance Riesener's desk. These geometrical plants and straight edges contrast with the subtle curve of the legs, a transitional reminder of the rococo style.

In the center of the front drawer and in the corresponding position on the back, intertwined ribbons of gilt bronze form the letters LB. This monogram could refer to any number of men named Louis in the Bourbon-Condé royal family. Since the initials are a different color metal, however, they may be later additions.

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