Rolltop Desk

Object Details


Rolltop Desk


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)




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1785 - 1788


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


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

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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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.


Possibly King Louis XVI 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) [offered for sale, Christie's, London, May 16, 1800, lot 101, unsold, and again February 12, 1801, lot 70, bought in.]

Possibly Octavius E. Coope (London, England)

- 1931

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

1931 - 1938

John Mortimer Schiff, 1904 - 1987 [sold, 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.