Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilet Table

about 1750

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

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.


  • Title: Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilet Table
  • Creator Lifespan: 1721/1763
  • Creator Nationality: French
  • Date Created: about 1750
  • Location Created: Paris, France
  • Physical Dimensions: w74 x h73 x d37.8 cm
  • Type: Furniture
  • Rights: http://www.getty.edu/legal/copyright.html
  • External Link: http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=6117
  • Medium: "Oak veneered with kingwood, amaranth, bloodwood, holly, and various stained exotic woods; drawers of juniper; iron mechanism; silk; gilt-bronze mounts"
  • Object Creditline: Gift of J. Paul Getty

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