Contrasting with its massive, square form, the marquetry that enhances this secrétaire is very delicate. This decoration consists of different woods inlaid to create images; in this case, vases overflowing with flowers, interlocking medallions, and swags of drapery. The amount of detail, especially on the flowers, and the shading by using different colored woods shows the great skill of the craftsperson.

It is difficult to guess at first sight that this secrétaire contains a complicated arrangement of springs, locks, and compartments. When the key is inserted into the keyhole in the upper panel, the panel moves forward, revealing a drawer equipped with space for writing and holding writing supplies. The front of the drawer can lower to allow a large writing slide and a book rest to emerge, permitting the owner to read and make notes while standing.

By inserting the key upside down in the same keyhole, the middle panel of the secrétaire opens to provide another writing surface. Inside are shelves and tiers of small drawers below arched niches decorated with more marquetry. Pushing a catch behind each arch releases two small drawers and a hidden panel.


  • Title: Secrétaire (3/4 left)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: about 1780
  • Location Created: Northern Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: 152 × 92 × 55.6 cm (59 13/16 × 36 1/4 × 21 7/8 in.)
  • Type: Furniture
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Oak carcass, with the drawer construction on the upper section being possibly poplar, veneered with satinwood, fruitwoods, tulipwood, and ebony, with stained and painted decoration
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 85.DA.147
  • Culture: European
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown maker, Northern European
  • Classification: Decorative Art (Art Genre)

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