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Fall-front desk
  • Date: 1783
  • Medium: Oak, purplewood, satiné, tulipwood, stained woods, burr wood, ebony or ebonised wood, box, gilt bronze, Carrara marble
  • Object size: 139.6 x 80.5 x 42 cm
  • Inv: F302
  • Location: Study
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Further Reading
  • Marie-Antoinette escaped the rigours of court etiquette by visiting the Petit Trianon, a small but perfectly-formed house in the grounds of Versailles that became her personal retreat. Both she and her husband, Louis XVI, had apartments there and she was involved in choosing the furniture for their rooms. This desk, with a fall-front that hides a number of small drawers and pigeon-holes and drops down to provide a writing surface, was supplied for the Petit Trianon by Riesener, her favourite cabinetmaker, on 8 March 1783. It was intended for her boudoir, a small room connecting to both her bedroom and the salon, leading directly out into the grounds.

    The veneer decoration, with its lozenge pattern marquetry, is characteristic of the furniture Riesener supplied for the queen and other members of the royal family. Originally the marquetry would have been a much richer colour, but this has faded with time. The delicate gilt-bronze mounts, depicting flowers and ribbons, echo the flowers grown in the gardens of the Petit Trianon, and are typical of Marie-Antoinette’s love for the rural idyll.

    The central gilt-bronze medallion depicting the 'Sacrifice to Love' and the rectangular plaque with the infant Mercury and his friends in the frieze have been added later, probably between c. 1794 and 1825. This may have been for reasons of changing taste, or to replace royal attributes such as Marie-Antoinette's initials in the frieze. The 'Sacrifice to Love' probably replaced a marquetry medallion of a pastoral theme.