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Work Rolltop desk

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Bureau à cylindre (cylinder desk)

© 2010 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Catherine Voiriot & Cyril Duclos

This rolltop writing desk was delivered on 21 December 1784 for the closet of queen Marie Antoinette's new apartment in the Palais de Tuileries. It was made in a precious style worthy of the sovereign. The purplewood, sycamore, and rosewood veneer is decorated with gilt bronze ornaments including four low reliefs depicting allegories (Music twice, Painting, and Sculpture) and two escutcheons representing baskets of flowers.

A desk made by Riesener for Marie Antoinette

In 1784 Marie Antoinette had a small apartment in the Tuileries refurbished in the latest fashion. The royal cabinetmaker, Jean-Henri Riesener, delivered several pieces of furniture for the bedroom, including a chest of drawers, a bedside table, and a toilette table (now in the Musée National du Château de Versailles), as well as a rolltop desk for the closet.

A fine piece of marquetry

The desk is composed of an apron with four drawers decorated with four gilt-bronze low reliefs, and a roll top, surmounted by a shelf with a foliage frieze gallery. All the panels of the desk are inlaid with a diamond pattern. In the center of the roll top is a garland of flowers, laurel branches, and ribbons framing an inlaid trophy representing the attributes of Poetry: a quill, a lyre, books, and an inkwell. In subsequent years, the fashion for inlaid furniture was supplanted by a preference for mahogany veneer.


This rolltop desk is not listed in the inventories at the end of the ancien régime, but it probably spent the Revolution in the Tuileries. At some point in the nineteenth century, it was sent to Saint-Cloud, where, in 1843, it was recorded as being in the lodgings of "Mr. Dubreuil, architect." In 1867 the Empress Eugenie put it in the museum dedicated to Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon. It was deposited with the Louvre in 1901.


Alcouffe Daniel, Le mobilier du Louvre, tome 1, Dijon, Editions Faton, 1993, pp.283 à 285.
Verlet Pierre, Le mobilier royal français, tome 1, seconde édition, 1990, Editions Picard, pp. 27 à 29.

Technical description

  • Jean-Henri RIESENER (Gladebeck, near Hessen, 1734 - Paris, 1806)

    Bureau à cylindre (cylinder desk)



  • Oak and deal frame; veneer of sycamore, kingwood and rosewood; polychrome wood marquetry; gilded bronze

    H. 1.03 m; W. 1.13 m; D. 0.64 m

  • Provenance: made for the Cabinet Intérieur of Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Appartement at the Palais des Tuileries; Château de Saint-Cloud in the 19th century, then at the museum dedicated to Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon. Assigned from the Mobilier National, 1901 , 1901

    OA 5226

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Del Duca
    Room 632

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