National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Writing Table (bureau plat) Charles Cressent (cabinetmaker)
French, 1685 - 1768
Writing Table (bureau plat), c. 1740/1745
veneered on oak and pine with kingwood, tulipwood, purplewood, boxwood, and ebony; gilded bronze mounts
overall: 83.8 x 194.2 x 89.8 cm (33 x 76 7/16 x 35 3/8 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.423
On View
From the Tour: Production of French Decorative Arts in the 1700s
Object 5 of 5

The maker of this magnificent writing table is Charles Cressent, one of the greatest French ébénistes of the eighteenth century. Trained in sculpture by his father, he became a master in the sculptors' guild in 1719. After his father's death in 1746, Cressent succeeded him as the court sculptor to Louis XV. By then, Cressent had long since been working mainly as a cabinetmaker, which had been his grandfather's profession.

As cabinetmaker to the young king's regent, the duc d'Orleans, and later to the king himself, Cressent may have grown arrogant. He was fined three times by tribunals for casting or gilding his own bronze mounts, which, by law, should have been done by specialists in metalwork.

The overall silhouettes of Cressent's furniture flow in fluid, sculptural masses. The gilt-bronze mounts, such as the four female busts emerging gracefully from this table's corners, reveal the finest modeling and hand-finishing. Details of the women's faces and lace caps were engraved or chased with stippled, shimmering textures.

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