Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilet Table
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Gift of J. Paul Getty
This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Jean-François Oeben
French, Paris, about 1750
Oak veneered with various dyed woods; iron mechanism; gilt-bronze mounts
H: 2 ft. 4 3/4 in. x W: 2 ft. 5 1/8 in. x D: 1 ft. 2 7/8 in.

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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.

Detail Views

Maker's stamp

Other Views

Table open
Table open

Floral marquetry top
Floral marquetry top