Jean-Henri Riesener, maître in 1768.
This magnificent mahogany table à écrire enriched with jewel-like ormolu mounts can undoubtedly be attributed to the oeuvre of the celebrated ébéniste Jean-Henri Riesener. It belongs to a small group of tables of similar scale and related mounts, most of which were delivered to members of the French Royal family. The closest example is a desk of identical shape with the same unusual and audacious curved sides. This desk, veneered in amaranth and satinwood, was delivered circa 1780 probably for the château des Tuileries and subsequently moved to the château de Saint-Cloud, and is now in the Musée du Louvre (inv. num. OA5481). The finely chased ormolu mounts to the frieze visible on the present, with elaborate entwined scrolling acanthus leaves centered with a sunflower, is identical to the one visible on another writing table delivered in 1783 for the apartment of Marie-Antoinette at Marly, now at the Museum of Art, Philadelphia (acc. num. 1939-41-8). The same frieze mount is also visible on a table by Riesener at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (acc. num. 1942.9.409). The superb pierced scrolling foliage one-third gallery of the present table’s top is a rare feature in Riesener’s oeuvre, and is only visible on some smaller scale tables including the chiffonnière from Marie-Antoinette’s cabinet at Marly, delivered in 1781, now at Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland; and on the table à écrire delivered in 1782 for the Queen’s boudoir de la Méridienne at Versailles, now at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.
Its unusual shape, with curved sides, reveals a hidden function actioned by a mechanism originally concealed under the top, releasing a silk screen raising from the top and sliding between the back legs. This rare technical feature, conceived to protect its owner from the heat of a nearby fireplace, and the revolving book stand are both to be found on another rare table attributed to Riesener, sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 6 November 1982, lot 142.