National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Lean-to Writing Desk (secrétaire en pente) Bernard van Risenburgh II (cabinetmaker)
French, active c. 1730 - 1765/1766
Lean-to Writing Desk (secrétaire en pente), c. 1750
veneered on oak (stained purple on the underside of the top) with tulipwood cut on the quarter, root-cut kingwood, and other end-cut woods; gilded bronze mounts
overall: 80 x 53.3 x 35.8 cm (31 1/2 x 21 x 14 1/8 in.)
Widener Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Rococo Decorative Arts of the Mid-1700s
Object 5 of 7

This lady’s diminutive desk has bulging, bombé surfaces. Its slanted top folds out on hinged struts that support its writing surface. Below three drawers, a false bottom pushes back, revealing three more tiny drawers. The flowers and vines that ripple across the exterior are repeated on the interior. These patterns are made of dark woods that were end-cut to create a stippled effect and silhouetted against the diagonal grain of pale tulip-wood.

Such floral veneer, making the most of natural wood tones, characterizes the style of Bernard II van Risamburgh, who stenciled his initials, B.V.R.B., underneath this piece. He often used ink stencils on his smaller works, which were too delicate to withstand blows from metal stamp punches.

Specializing in small-scale luxury furniture, Bernard was exceptionally versatile in technique. He used wood marquetry and Oriental lacquer, and is likely to have been the first cabinetmaker to decorate his pieces with plaques of Sévres porcelain. The second of three generations of Parisian furniture makers of Dutch origin, Bernard II van Risamburgh was among the finest eighteenth-century craftsmen.

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