CARLIN, Martin
(b. ca. 1730, Freiburg im Breisgau, d. 1785, Paris)

Small writing desk (bonheur-du-jour)

c. 1768
Oak veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, and stained sycamore; mahogany; seventeen soft-paste porcelain plaques; gilt-bronze mounts, 83 x 66 x 41 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This table, a bonheur-du-jour, as this type of small writing desk is called, was the one formerly in the possession of Madame du Barry, the official mistress of Louis XV after the death of Madame de Pompadour.

The model was repeated a number of times, and today eleven such bonheurs-du-jour are known, but this is the only one that can be dated to 1768, based on the date letter P for that year painted on the back of twelve of the porcelain plaques. Supported on four slender cabriole legs, this small piece is fitted with a single drawer in the frieze of the lower section, which has a hinged writing surface as well as a compartment that used to hold an inkwell, a trough for a sponge, and a box for sand to blot up excess ink.

The desk has been attributed to Martin Carlin, who made some eighty pieces of porcelain-mounted furniture between 1765 and 1778, intended for a fashionable and distinguished clientele consisting mostly of aristocratic ladies. The table was decorated by Denis Levé (active 1754-1805) with porcelain plaques by Sèvres Manufactory.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.