This writing desk is stamped with the mark of Pierre Migeon II. Migeon never officially became a master craftsman, presumably because he was a Calvinist and guild regulations in Paris excluded Protestants. Regardless, he was a favorite of Madame de Pompadour, the influential mistress of Louis XV. Migeon was a marchand-ébéniste or "merchant-cabinetmaker," meaning he not only designed and built his own furniture but also acted as a dealer for other artisans. His stamp on this writing desk, therefore, proves only that he sold it and is not conclusive evidence that he made it.
Somewhat larger than most ladies' desks, this one has steel rods that support its opened lid as a writing surface. The interior has two tiers of drawers; the lower set is hidden beneath a sliding, false bottom to protect valuables and private papers.
Although an ébéniste is a cabinetmaker, the word originates with the use of ebony (ébène) to make veneers. By the eighteenth century, a wide range of exotic woods was used for this purpose. Here, pale tulip-wood veneers create fan shapes behind the dark scrolls of purple-wood. Arabesques of curling lobes and cusps like these were popular before floral patterns became more fashionable after the mid-eighteenth century. They relate cleverly to the curvilinear shapes of the desk itself.
ATTRIBUTED TO PIERRE MIGEON II
Lean-to Writing Desk
MATERIAL: Oak with various wood veneers and gilded bronze mounts
DIMENSIONS: 76.7 x 71.1 x 43.3 cm (30 3/16 x 28 1/4 x 17 1/16 in.)
COLLECTION: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Widener Collection
ACCESSION NUMBER: 1942.9.424