List Price £35,000
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This exceptional desk, mounted with ormolu and adorned all over with floral marquetry, is an unusual and rare piece of French design: the desk is double sided.
The sloping desk first appeared around 1730 and went out of fashion around 1760, towards the end of the reign of Louis XV. When the sloping desk is doubled, as with the present example, the desk is said to be "dos d'âne", literally “back of the donkey”, but figuratively “speedbump”. This model of desk is exceptionally rare.
The desk features symmetrical sides, with each side featuring a drop front slope above an apron fitted with three frieze drawers. The desk is edged with deeply chiselled foliate ormolu mounts, and the faces of each slope and each drawer feature blind foliate ormolu frames. The table is raised on cabriole legs, which terminate in ormolu foliate sabots and are mounted to the shoulders with pierced ormolu adornments. The wooden surface of the desk is profusely decorated with delicate floral marquetry, depicting sprays of various flowers. The drop fronts open to reveal a writing surface and a series of cubby holes and smaller drawers.
The sobriety of the curves, the elegance of the proportions, the motif of fine and loose flowers, the use of perfectly dry wood, the particular care given to the assembly of the drawers, the quality of the frame, and the use of the end wood marquetry, all make this desk especially fine. In particular, the use of end wood marquetry means that the wood is cut at right angles to its grain, resulting in a rigorous and fine line and a dark tone that is enhanced by the brightness of the rosewood background. This method is one of the peaks of Louis XV marquetry.
The desk is inspired by a famous creation by Bernard II Van Risenburgh ('BVRB') The son of a cabinetmaker of Dutch origin, Bernard II van Risenburgh was the most renowned ébéniste of the early reign of Louis XV. He was awarded the title of Master in 1730 and established himself in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Throughout his career, he worked almost exclusively for merchant-merchants and, at the beginning of his career, for the most famous of them under Louis XV, Thomas-Joachim Hébert. It was through Hébert that he supplied the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne with several pieces of furniture, notably in 1745 for the interior cabinet of the Dauphine, Marie-Thérèse-Raphaelle of Spain, in Versailles, the sloping secretary that bears so many similarities to the present desk, which is contemporary with it in terms of the design and the gilt bronze ornamentation.
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