The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Roll-Top desk
  • Roll-Top desk
  • Jean-Henri Riesener (1734 - 1806)
  • France
  • c. 1770
  • Oak, marquetry of holly, stained and unstained, walnut, ebony, box, sycamore, amaranth, gilt bronze, mahogany, velvet and steel
  • Object size: 139 x 195.5 x 102.5 cm
  • Stamp: 'J. H. RIESENER'
    Inscription: 'L an mil sept ce / soixante neu / Le vingt / fevrie / furent / pre / perpetu / Riesener / fecit / a paris' Engraved
  • F102
  • Oval Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This desk is a slightly simplified version of the roll-top desk made for Louis XV by Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763) and Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) and delivered to Versailles in 1769. This one was supplied by Riesener to Pierre-Gaspard-Marie Grimod (1748-1809), comte d’Orsay, a member of a leading family of financiers and tax-farmers, only about a year after the king’s desk was delivered to Louis XV. It carries certain marquetry motifs that are also found on the king's desk, such as the attributes of Geometry and Astronomy on the back and the marquetry of the riches of the earth and of the sea, but also marquetry unique to this desk, such as the monogram 'ORS' in a medallion on each side, identifying the owner. Other elements may also refer to d’Orsay himself, for example the dove carrying a letter on the roll top may refer to his marriage in 1770 and the military trophies on the sides may refer to his commission as a captain of dragoons.
    In 1768 d'Orsay bought the Hôtel de Chaulnes, later the Hôtel d'Orsay, in Paris, which he refurnished and filled with works of art. In 1787 he left France to live in Germany (his wife Marie-Anne was the daughter of the ruling prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg) and rented his house to William Beckford. Beckford later emerged as the owner of the Riesener desk, perhaps having bought it from the Garde-Meuble National who had confiscated it as a 'masterpiece' at the Hôtel d'Orsay in 1794.