The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Writing- and reading-table
  • Writing- and reading-table
  • Martin Carlin (1730 - 1785)
  • France
  • 1783 - 1784
  • Oak veneered with tulipwood, stained sycamore, box and ebony; gilt-bronze, soft-paste Sèvres porcelain plaques, Carrara marble, steel, watered silk and silvered metal
  • Object size: 79 x 40.7 x 32.8 cm
  • Stamp: 'JME M.CARLIN JME'
    Inscription: 'M. CARLIN' Written in ink
  • F327
  • Study
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This table, characteristic of the 1780s in its ingenious mechanical fittings, combines a writing- and reading-table. Concealed within are two drawers, a candle-stand at each side and a mechanism allowing the entire top to be raised and tilted to form a book-rest.
    The charm of the piece, however, is in the decoration of the gilt-bronze mounts and the porcelain plaques, which give it an exquisite refinement. Everything is of the highest quality - the cabinet-making, the gilt-bronze work and the painting on the Sèvres plaques (museum nos. C506a-e), which depict overflowing baskets of flowers and colourful ribbons and have been attributed to the Sèvres painter, Edme-François Bouilliat père (1746-1802).
    The cabinet-maker was Martin Carlin (c.1730-1785), who often worked to the designs of the dealer Dominique Daguerre (d. 1796). This was almost certainly one of those pieces, and would have been bought by a highly-discerning and very wealthy client. The design idea seems to stem from the adjustable music stands with which Carlin can also be associated, and several versions of this kind of mechanical reading and writing table exist.