Marie-Antoinette's Secretaire
  • Date: 1780
  • Medium: Oak, purplewood, satiné, tulipwood, stained woods, burr wood, ebony or ebonised wood, box, gilt bronze, Carrara marble
  • Object size: 144 x 112 x 45.5 cm
  • Inv: F300
  • Location: Study
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Further Reading
  • Delivered by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806), Marie-Antoinette's favourite cabinet-maker, on 8 July 1780 for the queen at Versailles, this fall-front writing-desk is one of several similar pieces, some stamped by Jean-François Oeben and some by Riesener (who took over the workshop after Oeben’s death), all produced between the early 1760s and 1780. This desk stands out for the quality of both its marquetry and its mounts, in perfect harmony with each other.

    The heavy style of the desk, with its elaborate acanthus mounts and iconographical marquetry, including the cockerel of France on the drop-front, contrasting with the neoclassical male mounts on either side and marquetry urns on the lower doors, suggests that it would have been largely out of date when it was delivered. It is perhaps surprising that Riesener produced an old-fashioned model at a time when he was also developing a new style of furniture and decoration for the queen. Indeed, it was not long before Marie-Antoinette got rid of it and changed the decor in her private study — the desk was sent to another of the royal residences, the Chateau of St Cloud, for the use of Louis XVI. Riesener replaced it with another, less ponderous desk which had marquetry decoration more in keeping with the queen's leisure pursuits and the decor of the room.