Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table

Jean-François Oebenabout 1750

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

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.

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  • Title: Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilette Table
  • Creator: Jean-François Oeben
  • Date: about 1750
  • Location Created: Paris, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 73 x 74 x 37.8 cm (28 3/4 x 29 1/8 x 14 7/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Oak veneered with kingwood, amaranth, bloodwood, holly, and various stained exotic woods; drawers of juniper; iron mechanism; silk; gilt-bronze mounts
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Object Type: Furniture
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 70.DA.84
  • Markings: Markings: Stamped "J.F.OEBEN" twice underneath table. Label: Label underneath table printed "Mrs John D. Rockefeller, Jr."; label inside drawer inked "C.64781J.D.R.[N]/10 West Fifty'fourth Street, New York".
  • Inscription: Secondary Inscription: Inscribed in ink "No. 4" underneath table.
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum South Pavilion, Gallery S107
  • Department: Sculpture & Decorative Arts
  • Culture: French
  • Credit Line: Gift of J. Paul Getty
  • Classification: Decorative Arts