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Roll-top desk
  • Roll-top desk
  • Carl Dreschler (died before 1873) , mounts
  • Charles Couët, Movement Maker
  • France
  • Date: c. 1853 - 1860
  • Medium: Oak, poplar (?), padouk, sycamore, purplewood, satiné, ebony or ebonised wood, box, stained woods, gilt bronze, Sèvres porcelain
  • Object size: 143 x 183 x 97.5 cm
  • Inv: F460
  • Location: Back State Room
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Further Reading
  • This desk is a copy of probably the most celebrated piece of eighteenth-century French furniture, the King's Desk (called the 'bureau du Roi'), now at Versailles, which was made for Louis XV by Jean-François Oeben (1721–1763) and Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806) and delivered in 1769.

    This copy was made for the 4th Marquess of Hertford in Paris in the 1850s. Hertford was a friend of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie and must have known the original desk, which was displayed in the grand salon of the Tuileries and, from 1855, in Eugénie's study at the palace of Saint-Cloud. The maker has copied the desk as it was after the alterations of 1794, when the original interlaced Ls of Louis XV were replaced with biscuit porcelain Sèvres plaques and elements of the marquetry decoration were changed.

    Lord Hertford was a great connoisseur of eighteenth-century French decorative art and a champion of nineteenth-century craftsmen. He obtained permission to have various architectural and gilt-bronze elements from the Palace of Fontainebleau copied by the important bronze worker Charles Crozatier (1795–1855) in 1852, and it is likely that he obtained similar permission for the desk to be copied. Later reports show that it was Carl Dreschler (died before 1873), Crozatier’s foreman and later successor, who was responsible for the mounts on the desk. It is possible that the cabinetwork was undertaken by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen (1812–1871), a cabinetmaker about whom little is known but whose work was always of the highest standards found in Paris. Much of his known work is in a Louis XVI-period style, or direct copies of eighteenth-century furniture made to the highest degrees of accuracy.

    Further circumstantial evidence points to Winckelsen as the cabinetmaker of Hertford’s desk. When he died, his workshop assets — models and cabinetmaker’s plans — were sold to Henry Dasson (1825–1896). Many of Dasson’s later pieces are the same models as those produced by Winckelsen. In 1878, Dasson exhibited another copy of the King’s Desk at the Paris Exhibition, suggesting that he had access to both models and plans of the desk. Later, a number of the most accomplished French cabinetmakers produced their own copies of the King’s Desk, including J.-E. Zweiner, Alfred Beurdeley, J.-H. Jansen and François Linke, and it became a sought-after model worldwide.

    Hertford's copy is believed to have cost him £3,000, an enormous amount of money. He commissioned other copies of celebrated pieces of French eighteenth-century furniture, made in both France and England in the 1850s, but this desk and a copy of the desk of the Elector of Bavaria (F461) are the only two now in the Wallace Collection.