Label

Martha Washington wrote and read countless letters at this diminutive, Louis XVI-style writing desk. The French minister to the United States, Éléanor François Elie, Comte de Moustier (1751-1817), brought it to New York in 1788 for his sister-in-law, the Marquise de Bréhan. George Washington purchased it two years later from Moustier, who had been recalled to France. Apart from its classical good looks, the desk was built for safe-keeping - keys are required to open the upper cabinet and hinged writing flap which conceals three interior compartments. The only two known surviving letters from George to Martha Washington were found in this desk, inadvertently caught behind a drawer.

Description

Louis XVI-style ladies' writing desk, or bonheur du jour, made in two sections. Upper compartment with brass-bounded marble top is enclosed by two tambour shutters above two flush drawers, and has a finished, paneled back with seven vertical boards of varying widths. Right drawer fitted with three compartments along its front containing silvered brass inserts to hold pens, ink, and other writing accessories. Lower section with hinged writing flap lined with gilt-tooled black leather opens to reveal three shallow compartments with hinged paneled lids. Two flush drawers below flank a central arch or kneehole framed by two-piece quarter-round brackets at front and back of case. The sides and backs of the case are framed with recessed panels. Three flutes on fronts and sides of all four stiles. Cylindrical, tapered legs with vase-and-spool turnings at top and brass feet. Brass-lined keyholes on tambour doors and drawers.

Date

1787-1789


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Mahogany, mahogany veneers (primary), European white oak (secondary), marble, brass, silvered brass, leather, gilt


Dimensions

Overall: 41 1/2 in. x 28 1/4 in. x 19 in. (105.41 cm x 71.76 cm x 48.26 cm)


Credit Line

Purchase, 1939


Marks

Stamped twice on bottom of proper left lower case side: (partial, near front) "CHAVIGNAU", (partial, back) "V·J·G·CHAVIG[NAU]".


Object Number

W-220


Colors (Beta)


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