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Work Writing table

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Writing-table with stand

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Thierry Ollivier

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Muriel Barbier

Queen Marie Antoinette purchased the château de Saint-Cloud from the Duke of Orléans in 1785 and furnished it to suit her own taste. This table was in the queen's inner chamber. It was crafted by the cabinetmaker Adam Weisweiler and delivered by the merchant Daguerre, who probably had a hand in the design. The piece is characteristic of Weisweiler's work and of the refinement of the Louis XVI style.

A writing table

This lacquered, ebony-veneered, oblong table has an apron furnished with drawers. The front of the apron is divided into three sections, with the center projecting slightly. The middle and left sections comprise a single large drawer with a hinged flap covered in blue (originally green velvet) that, when raised, reveals the actual drawer. The small right section of the apron is made up of a drawer (which lacks its writing case), containing a gilt copper inkwell, a powder case, and a sponge box. The central section has a rack and pinion on the back, enabling it to be raised like a sloping desktop. When closed, the table seems to become purely decorative.

Lacquer and marquetry

Cabinetwork plays only a small part in the appearance of the table, most of which is veneered wtih Japan lacquer panels encircled with aventurine and set off by gilt-bronze beading. The apron also features materials not commonly used in cabinetmaking, especially steel, which here makes one of its earliest appearances in a piece of furniture. Inside the table, Weisweiler's skill at marquetry becomes apparent: the bottoms and sides of the drawers are inlaid with sycamore diamonds edged with three narrow bands of white, green, and black, and punctuated at the top by four ebony disks. Similar marquetry can be found on the card table made for Marie-Antoinette by Jean Henri Riesener, likewise for the château de Saint-Cloud, and now in the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris. With its stretcher composed of cleverly intertwining rods supporting a gilt-bronze openwork basket in the middle, the table is typical of Adam Weisweiller's work.

Lavish and finely executed gilt mounts

The writing table features gilt-bronze decoration, perhaps made by the gilder François Remond whose services Daguerre often called upon. The feet, which are cased, are decorated with canephores enfolded in classical drapery, a motif that recurs throughout Weisweiler's work. The apron is made of polished steel plates highlighted with gilt bronze friezes. The projecting front section is decorated with a mask of Apollo flanked by a pair of winged sphinxes, and by foliated scrolls. The sides feature garlands of flowers and fruits held up by ribbons tied in bows. The delicate chasing and the polychrome effect of the different materials make this table a masterpiece, crafted under the orchestration of Daguerre.


Alcouffe D., Dion-Tennenbaum A., Lefebure A., Le mobilier du musée du Louvre, t.1, Dijon, Editions Faton, 1993, p 288- 291.

Pradere A., Les ébénistes français de Louis XV à la Révolution, Paris, Edtions Le Chêne, 1989, p 389.

Technical description

  • Adam WEISWEILER (Korschenbroich or Neuwied, 1744 - Paris, 1820)

    Writing-table with stand


    Stamp of Adam Weisweiler

  • Ebony, Japanese lacquer, mother-of-pearl, gilded bronze and steel

    H. 73.70 cm; W. 81.20 cm; D. 45.20 cm

  • Provenance: Cabinet Interieur of Marie-Antoinette, Saint-Cloud; Prince de Beauvau collection; "Salon Bleu" of Empress Eugénie, Palais des Tuileries, 1865. Assigned from the Mobilier National, 1870 , 1870

    OA 5509

  • Decorative Arts

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