National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Work and Writing Table Martin Carlin (cabinetmaker)
French, c. 1730 - 1785
Work and Writing Table, c. 1770
veneered with sycamore, tulipwood, purplewood, ebony, boxwood, and various other woods; gilded bronze mounts
overall: 73.8 x 79.6 x 46.1 cm (29 1/16 x 31 5/16 x 18 1/8 in.)
Widener Collection
On View
From the Tour: Neoclassical Decorative Arts of the Late 1700s
Object 5 of 6

When the writing surface of this lady's table is pulled forward, the top automatically slides back. The gilt-bronze corner ornaments consist of crossed torches and quivers of arrows. These ancient military motifs act here as emblems of love-burning passions and Cupid's darts.

The top is veneered with a neoclassical pattern of checkered squares punctuated by rosettes. Fluted legs taper to a daring slenderness, and the center panels of all four sides drop below the main silhouette. These deep falls appear to defy gravity, adding to the piece's apparent weightlessness.

Martin Carlin, who signed this table, was noted for such elegant proportions. He specialized in ladies' small-scale furniture, which he usually sold ready-made through dealers instead of working on commissions from patrons. Carlin's popularity is indicated in purchases made by Madame du Barry, Marie Antoinette, and the great-aunts of Louis XVI.

Born in Baden, Germany, Carlin had moved to Paris by 1759, when he married a sister of the cabinetmaker Jean-François Oeben. Along with Oeben's other pupils, including Leleu and Riesener, Carlin was among the most fashionable of neoclassical designers.

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