National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Combined Toilet and Writing Table (toilette à transformations) Jean-François Leleu (cabinetmaker)
French, 1729 - 1807
Combined Toilet and Writing Table (toilette à transformations), c. 1764/1775
veneered on oak with tulipwood, kingwood, pearwood, purplewood, sycamore, holly, boxwood, and ebony, some of the woods being originally stained green and other colors; drawers partially of mahogany; sparsely mounted with gilded bronze
overall: 70.5 x 55.8 x 39.3 cm (27 3/4 x 21 15/16 x 15 1/2 in.)
Widener Collection
On View
From the Tour: Neoclassical Decorative Arts of the Late 1700s
Object 1 of 6

A ribboned, floral bouquet executed in wood marquetry fills the top of this table. The yellow of the daffodils has faded, but traces remain of the green and red dyes used to stain the leaves and roses. Otherwise, this lady's desk is extraordinarily well preserved.

When the key is inserted, springs move the top back halfway while a writing compartment glides forward, doubling the work area. Deep drawers on both sides are simultaneously unlocked and then can be pulled out manually. The owner, when finished with her correspondence or household accounts, could lift the hinged writing surface to reveal the mirror on its back and compartments for cosmetics below.

Jean-François Leleu, who signed this work, also supplied furniture for the pleasure pavilion built in 1770-1771 at Louveciennes for Madame du Barry, the last mistress of Louis XV. The decoration at Louveciennes presented neoclassicism as the approved court style. The straight lines and perfect circles of this early, transitional-style table are imposed on a curving, rococo silhouette.

Leleu gained his expertise in pictorial veneer from his teacher, Jean-François Oeben. For a man who could invent such refined designs, Leleu had a violent temper. When a fellow apprentice, Jean-Henri Riesener, inherited the studio of their master Oeben, Leleu was outraged and spent the rest of his career suing Riesener in vain.

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