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Small Upright Writing Cabinet

Date: 1760-1770
39 1/4 x 28 1/2 x 13 in. (99.7 x 72.4 x 33 cm.)
Medium: oak carcase veneered with marquetry of stained and natural-colored boxwood on sycamore ground with boxwood stringing and a purplewood border set in tulipwood; gilt-bronze mounts
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection.
Marks: Stamped twice on the bottom rail of the cabinet: R; stamped near one of the Rs, but not as part of the same die: K.
Inscription: Stamped twice on the bottom rail of the cabinet: R; stamped near one of the Rs, but not as part of the same die: K.
Object Number: 27.101
Label Text:This writing cabinet was most likely made, or at least retailed by, Pierre Roussel, whose stamp appears on a similar piece in the Cleveland Museum of Art. However, the design and decoration of the Huntington cabinet are very close to the work of two Parisian workshops, those of Roussel and Léonard Boudin (1735-1807). The marquetry panels with sprays of flowers, as on the shelf of the cabinet, and musical instruments, as on its lower sides, as well as the framing à grecque are in the manner of Roussel's work. The neoclassical urn-shaped vases on the cabinet sides and back are typical of his highly stylized still-life designs, whereas the military attributes decorating the cabinet front are in close keeping with Boudin's style of pictorial marquetry. At least some of the panels used by both workshops, and others in the faubourg Saint-Antoine, are likely to have been supplied by specialist marquetry cutters. For example, the panel of floral marquetry on the shelf and the naïve rural scenes on the top and lower front of the secrétaire were used in a number of the workshops in the faubourg. The use of a pictorial marquetry panel to decorate the staves of the tambour is unusual and technically demanding, which suggests that the piece was made in a workshop that was extremely familiar with the fitting of marquetry panels to furniture of many forms.
Roussel and Boudin were part of the faubourg's woodworking community. Until about 1768, they each supplied Pierre Migeon II and II (1701-1758 and 1733-1775, respectively), marchands ébénistes (furniture dealers) who represented their own and neighboring workshops. Thereafter, Roussel and Boudin established their own shops and themselves subcontracted to local cabinetmakers, such as J.-L. Cosson, N. Petit, and F. Reizell, any of whom may have had a hand in the making of this piece.

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