The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table

Object Details

Title:

Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table

Artist/Maker:

Jean-François Oeben (French, born Germany, 1721 - 1763, master 1761)

Culture:

French

Place:

Paris, France (Place Created)

Date:

about 1760

Medium:

White oak veneered with bloodwood, kingwood, amaranth, padauk, barberry, holly, boxwood, sycamore, tulipwood, hornbeam, ebony, cedar; drawer of juniper; gilt-bronze mounts; brass and iron mechanism and lock; silk

Object Number:

70.DA.84

Dimensions:

73 × 74 × 37.8 cm (28 3/4 × 29 1/8 × 14 7/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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Object Description

With the turn of a key in the small hole in the table's side, the top automatically slides back and the drawer below opens, revealing lidded compartments and a book rest. The mechanism is activated by interior springs, which are tightened by winding another key.

Jean-François Oeben, the ébéniste who made this table, was a particularly talented maker of mechanical furniture and was given the special privilege to forge his own metal fittings. He specialized in elaborate, multi-purpose pieces of furniture that he decorated with floral marquetry of stained woods. On this table a naturalistic bouquet of tulips, daffodils, roses, and other flowers spreads across the top surface, loosely tied with a ribbon. Originally the marquetry was vibrantly dyed, but the colors have faded and only the green shades remain.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1949

B. Fabre & Fils (Paris, France) and Cameron (London, England), sold to J. Paul Getty, 1949.

1949 - 1970

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1970.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Paris: Life & Luxury (April 26, 2011 to January 2, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 26 to August 7, 2011
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, September 18, 2011 to January 2, 2012
Bibliography
Bibliography

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1954), p. 13, no. 24, ill.

Getty, J. Paul, and Ethel Le Vane. Collector's Choice: The Chronicle of an Artistic Odyssey through Europe (London: W. H. Allen, 1955), n.p, ill. p. 167-68.

Wescher, Paul. "French Furniture of the Eighteenth Century in the J. Paul Getty Museum." The Art Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 1955), pp. 118, 121, 129, fig. 12.

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 2nd ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1956), pp. 27-28, ill., no. 24.

Getty, J. Paul. "Vingt Mille Lieues dans les musées." Connaissance des Arts 57 (November 1956), p. 80, ill.

Getty, J. Paul. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la collection J. Paul Getty (Monaco: Jaspard, Polus & Cie, 1963), p. 123, ill.

Boutemy, André. “Jean-François Oeben Méconnu.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 63 (April 1964), p. 215, fig. 23.

Getty, J. Paul. The Joys of Collecting (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1965), p. 153, ill.

Siguret, Philippe. Le Style Louis XV (Paris: Société français du livre, 1965), p. 78-79, ill.

Jones, Anne Marian. A Handbook of the Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1965), pp. 10, 23, pl. 10, no. D-53.

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. 142, 163, ill.

Frel, Jiri, Burton B. Fredericksen, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 3rd ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), pp. 72, 74-75.

Frel, Jiri, Burton Fredericksen, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), pp. 76, 79.

Wilson, Gillian. Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1977), pp. 52, 59, no. 68.

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), pp. 100-1, 103, ill.

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), p. 51, no. 66.

Ramond, Pierre. Chefs d'oeuvre des marqueteurs. Vol. 3, Marqueteurs d'exception (Dourdan: Éditions H. Vial, 1999), pp. 15-18, ill.

Ramond, Pierre. Masterpieces of Marquetry. Vol. 3, Outstanding Marqueters (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pp. 15-18, ill.

Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 36, no. 63.

Stratmann-Döhler, Rosemarie. Jean-François Oeben, 1721-1763 (Paris: Éditions de l’Amateur and Perrin & Fils, 2002), pp. 98-99, 184, no. 135.

Bennett, Shelley M., and Carolyn Sargentson, eds. French Art of the Eighteenth Century at the Huntington (New Haven and London: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, with Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 65, 67, 68n2, 68n11, under no. 8, fig. 36, entry by Florian Knothe.

Bremer-David, Charissa, ed. Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), p. 45, fig. 27 (detail), pp. 70-71, fig. 47, p. 116, no. 7.

Gaston, Teddy Getty, with Digby Diehl. Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty (New York: Ecco, 2013), ill. between pp. 384-85.