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Work Writing table (bureau plat)

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Bureau plat (large writing-table)

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Barbier Muriel

The cabinetmaker Philippe-Claude Montigny (1734-1800) made a series of writing tables between 1770 and 1780, including this example, formerly in the Grog Collection. Like other pieces by Montigny, the desk is particularly well-structured, with gilt bronze mounts off-set by the use of plain veneer - a recurrent feature in his work.

Writing tables by Montigny

Philippe-Claude Montigny specialized in making rectangular writing tables with a single drawer. Some are much larger than this example, while others, including models in the Grog Collection or the Musée Cognac-Jay in Paris, are built on a more modest scale. The latter are comparable to a small flat-topped desk by Martin Carlin (also in the Louvre, circa 1730-85), made for Mme Victoire, and were perhaps intended for use by women. The friezes were inlaid or, more rarely, decorated with a plain veneer and gilt-bronze ornamentation, as seen here. Most were supported on square legs, however the Louvre writing table has tapering stop-fluted legs, characteristic of the Louis XVI style.

"Signature" decorations by Montigny

Montigny's writing tables are typically Louis XVI in form, but their decoration is characteristic of the Transition style, with the upper parts of the legs almost always adorned with laurel-festooned tori. The legs of the present desk are composed of Ionic capitals draped with laurel-leaf garlands, which, on other writing tables, are generally suspended from studs. In 1772, this arrangement was used on a commode now in the Wallace Collection, London, made for the duchess of Bourbon by Jean-François Leleu (1729-1807), a contemporary of Montigny's. However, both the frieze of gilt-bronze drapery decorating the front of the drawers, and the eight-sided legs, are more reminiscent of the work of Martin Carlin. The slight differences between this writing table and others made by Montigny suggest that it may have been executed at a later date.


Cinq années d'enrichissement du patrimoine 1975-1980, Paris, 1980, no. 84.

Technical description

  • Stamped with the mark of Philippe-Claude MONTIGNY

    Bureau plat (large writing-table)

    C. 1775-80


  • Veneer of kingwood, rosewood and green-stained sycamore; gilded bronze

  • Gift of M. René Grog and Mme Grog-Carven, 1973 , 1973

    OA 10469

  • Decorative Arts

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