The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Secretaire
  • Secretaire
  • Adam Weisweiler (1744 - 1820)
  • France
  • c. 1787
  • Oak, veneered with thuya-wood, amaranth, satinwood and mahogany, mounted with Sèvres soft-paste porcelain plaques and gilt-bronze; Sarrancolin marble
  • Object size: 121.4 x 75.9 x 36.2 cm
  • Stamp: 'A. WEISWEILER'
    Label: 'Rue Jacob, No 5, faubourg Saint-Germain. / VACHÉ / vend et achète toutes sortes d'Objets d'art, de curiosité et d'antiquité, et se charge de nettoyer les Tableaux / Paris, le… 182.' Printed bill
    Label: 'F. Feser / Sept 1942' In pencil on card
    Label: Part of pp.881-2 of Diderot and D'Alembert, Encyclopédie, XIV
    Inscription: 'F.F. 1928' In pencil
  • F308
  • Oval Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Stamped by Weisweiler, this desk bears close similarities to other pieces of furniture produced by him, especially the female gilt-bronze caryatids which appear on several desks and tables by him, including a table veneered with lacquer delivered for Queen Marie-Antoinette's 'cabinet' or study at Saint-Cloud in November 1784. The plaque with infants studying geometry and astronomy is also on a mahogany-veneered console table by Weisweiler.The inside of the desk has a simple but highly refined finish, with shelves and pigeon holes lined in satinwood and edged with amaranth. Weisweiler is known to have produced numerous pieces of furniture for Marie-Antoinette.
    However, the desk has been the subject of alterations in the nineteenth century, not least the insertion of the porcelain plaque painted with the Queen's cypher, 'MA', in the stretcher (museum number C501e). There was a great interest in Marie-Antoinette in the early-to-mid nineteenth century and collectors were keen to acquire objects that she was believed to have owned, which resulted in alterations such as this one. A printed bill of trade was found under the plaque advertising the dealer Vaché, who must have had this fake plaque inserted. Moreover, the porcelain plaques on the front and sides of the desk (C501a-d) are not a set, which casts suspicion on when the rest of them were inserted. The two front plaques are soft-paste Sèvres porcelain and may have been painted by Nicolas Dodin, and supplied to the dealer Dominique Daguerre in 1777, while the oval plaque on the right-hand side was probably once a 'plateau Hébert' and that on the left-hand side was cut and decorated in the nineteenth century to match it. Vaché may have carried out all these alterations at the same time, or the two central plaques may have been added earlier to appeal to the taste for Sèvres-mounted furniture.