Object Details




Attributed to Jean-Henri Riesener (French, 1734 - 1806, master 1768, fournisseur du garde-meuble royal 1774 - 1784)




Paris, France, Europe (Place created)


about 1785


Oak veneered with panels of Japanese lacquer and ebony; interior fittings of mahogany; gilt bronze mounts; black marble top


154.9 × 113 × 46.7 cm (61 × 44 1/2 × 18 3/8 in.)

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The front of this desk, known as a secrétaire, drops down to reveal an interior compartment divided into drawers, while the fall front itself becomes a writing surface. The entire body of interior fittings, made of solid mahogany, can be pulled out from the front, revealing secret lidded compartments below. Such shallow pieces of furniture that open or extend into larger objects were invented for the smaller, more intimate rooms of the later half of the 1700s.

Although researchers cannot find the Getty Museum's secrétaire listed in the royal inventories, it is of the same caliber as other pieces made for Marie-Antoinette and the French court. The mounts are finely chased in their smallest details, and the construction of the piece is of high quality.

- 1832

George Watson Taylor, 1771 - 1841 (Erlestoke Mansion, Devizes, Wiltshire, England) [sold, Erlestoke Mansion, July 9 et seq., 1832, lot 26]

1835/1840 -

Alexander Archibald Douglas, tenth duke of Hamilton and seventh duke of Brandon, 1767 - 1852 (Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire, Scotland), by inheritance to William Alexander Douglas.
Source: listed in the Duke's Dressing Room in an inventory of 1835-1840.

- 1882

William Alexander Douglas, twelfth duke of Hamilton and ninth duke of Brandon, 1845 - 1885 (Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire, Scotland) [sold, Christie's, London, July 10, 1882, lot 1296, to Samson Wertheimer]

by about 1883

Cornelius Vanderbilt II, 1843 - 1899 (1 West 57th Street, New York City), by inheritance to wife, Alice Vanderbilt.

1899 - 1934

Alice Vanderbilt , wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt, II, 1846 - 1934 (857 Fifth Avenue, New York City), by inheritance to her daughter, Gladys Moore Vanderbilt.


Gladys Moore Vanderbilt , Countess Laszlo Széchényi, 1886 - 1965

1953 - 1963

French and Company, Inc., (stock # 53930-X, on consignment from Gladys Moore Vanderbilt, Countess Laszlo Széchényi), June 26, 1953 to July 9, 1963

1965 - 1971

Heirs of Gladys Moore Vanderbilt, 1886 - 1965 [sold, Sotheby's, London, November 26, 1971, lot 71, to the J. Paul Getty Museum]