The J. Paul Getty Museum

Rolltop Desk

Object Details

Title:

Rolltop Desk

Artists/Makers:

Desk by Bernard Molitor (French, 1730 - after 1811, master 1787)

reunts after designs by François Rémond (French, 1747 - 1812, master 1774)

some mounts cast by Gambier (French, active late 1700s)

Culture:

French

Place:

Paris, France (Place Created)

Date:

about 1785–1788

Medium:

Fir and oak veneered with mahogany and ebony; gilt-bronze mounts; "griotte" de Flandre marble top

Object Number:

67.DA.9

Dimensions:

137 × 181 × 87 cm (53 15/16 × 71 1/4 × 34 1/4 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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Object Description

When the roll-top is raised, a writing slide may be pulled forward, revealing dummy drawer fronts that match the interior desk drawers above. Additional writing slides pull out at the sides, perhaps for assistants to take dictation. The desk was originally designed to sit in the middle of a room, where it could be seen from all sides; the gilt bronze mounts that decorate the lower frieze once continued around the back.

The ébéniste Bernard Molitor, who made this desk, received many commissions from the French court. Although scholars are unsure exactly who commissioned this grand piece, an entry in a sale catalogue of 1800, when it was sold at auction, described it as having come from the royal château of Saint-Cloud. A further clue to its original owner are the very small fleurs-de-lis, symbol of the monarchy, stamped on the drawer handle of the center drawer.

Provenance
Provenance
1793/1794

Possibly Louis XVI, King of France, French, 1754 - 1793 (Château de Saint-Cloud near Paris, France), listed in the inventory of the château in an II (1793-1794).

- 1800/1801

Vandyck (London, England) [unsold, A most superbe & matchless assemblage of French Porcelane, etc., Christie's, London, May 16, 1800, lot 101; unsold, A Superb Assemblage [...] recently consigned from Abroad, Christie's, London, February 12, 1801, lot 70.]

-

Possibly Octavius E. Coope (London, England)

- 1931

Mortimer Leo Schiff, American, 1877 - 1931 (New York City, New York), by inheritance to his son, John M. Schiff, 1931.

1931 - 1938

John Mortimer Schiff, American, 1904 - 1987 (932 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY) [sold, Fine Decorative Furniture, Important Objects of Art, Tapestry, Sculpture, and Rugs, Being a Part of the Collection Formed by the Late Mortimer L. Schiff, Esq., Christie's, London, June 22, 1938, lot 59, to J. Paul Getty.]

1938 - 1967

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1967.

Bibliography
Bibliography

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1954), p. 17, no. 11.

Wescher, Paul. "French Furniture of the Eighteenth Century in the J. Paul Getty Museum." The Art Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 1955), pp. 125-26, 133, fig. 16.

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 2nd ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1956), p. 32, no. 9.

Messadie, Gerald. "J. Paul Getty, Malibu, California: Antiquities, French furniture and paintings." In Great Private Collections. Douglas Cooper, ed. (New York: Macmillan Company, 1963), p. 186, ill.

Getty, J. Paul. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la collection J. Paul Getty (Monaco: Jaspard, Polus & Cie, 1963), p. 131, ill.

Getty, J. Paul. The Joys of Collecting (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1965), p. 161, ill.

Jones, Anne Marian. A Handbook of the Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1965), pp. 11, 21, pl. 7, no. D-44.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), pp. 143, 182, ill.

Frel, Jiri, Burton B. Fredericksen, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook, 3rd ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 87.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 120.

Jackson-Stops, Gervase. "Boulle by the Beach: Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum." Country Life 179, no. 4624 (April 3, 1986), p. 855.

Leben, Ulrich. "Die Werkstatt Bernard Molitors." Kunst und Antiquitäten 4 (1987), pp. 52-53, fig. 1.

Kjellberg, Pierre. Le Mobilier français du XVIIIe siècle: Dictionnaire des ébénistes et des menuisiers (Paris: Éditions de l'Amateur, 1989), p. 582.

Leben, Ulrich. "Bernard Molitor (1755-1833): Leben und Werk eines Pariser Kunstischlers." Ph.D. diss. (The Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn, 1989), pp.181-82, fig. 63a-b.

Leben, Ulrich. Molitor: Ébeniste from the Ancien Régime to the Bourbon Restoration. William Wheeler, trans. (London: Philip Wilson, 1992), pp. 152-53, 190-91. fig. 154.

Bremer-David, Charissa, et al. Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993), pp. 36-37, no. 42.

Baulez, Christian. "Toute L'Europe tire ses bronzes de Paris." In Bernard Molitor (1755-1833): Ébeniste Parisien d'Origine Luxembourgeoise, exh. cat. Leben, Ulrich, ed. (Luxembourg: Ville de Luxembourg, 1995), p. 97, fig. 10.

Leben, Ulrich. "Bernard Molitor, cabinetmaker," Antiques 148, no. 3 (September 1995), pp. 312-13, fig. 11.

Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), pp. 24-25, no. 42.

Gaston, Teddy Getty, with Digby Diehl. Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty (New York: Ecco, 2013), p. 94.