Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table

Object Details


Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table


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




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1760


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:



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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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.

- 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.

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

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

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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, ill.

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.

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), p. 15-18, ill.

Ramond, Pierre. Masterpieces of Marquetry. Vol. 3, Outstanding Marqueters (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), p. 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), p. 98-99, 184, no. 135.

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. 384-385.