Relevant categories: Desks
( Bureau de Roi Desk - as found in the Palace of Versailles )
One of the most famous pieces of antique furniture is the Bureau De Roi (the king’s desk). It is a highly ornamented cylindrical desk which was meant for use by the king. The desk is also commonly known as Louis XV’s roll-top secretary. Even though its construction began under King Louis XV, it was completed during the reign of King XVI of France. It was custom-made to fit in the brand new Palace of Versailles.
What’s the history of the Bureau De Roi?
(Above photo: Incredibly ornate Bureau de Roi desk )
The Bureau De Roi is thought to have been commissioned for construction in 1760. The first designer in charge of the project was Jean Francois Oeben, who was a mater maker of cabinets. He was a master cabinet maker who, incidentally was known by the title Cabinet Maker to the King. To accomplish the work that went into building the Bureau De Roi, Oeben did his work at a Parisian workshop known as the Arsenal. Here, he was able to design a forge which he then used to cast custom metal fittings.
Even though Oeben was able to design and fabricate a miniature wax model, it was Jean Henri Riesener who actually finished the desk. Incidentally, after Oeben’s death, Riesener married his window. He didn’t just inherit the wife but he also took over Oeben’s work in creating the Bureau De Roi.
The Bureau De Roi was initially intended for the Cabinet De Roi, the king’s palace in Versailles. Following the French Revolution, the desk was moved to Paris’ Louvre Museum. But it was to stay at the museum only for a short while. In the 20th-century, the desk was taken back to the Palace of Versailles and placed in the room where it originally stood before the revolution. The room is known as the “inner study of the Private Apartments, which served as a study room for King Louis XV and King Louis XVI.
What does the Bureau De Roi Look Like?
( Above photo - The original Bureau de Roi in the Palace of Versailles )
That it took quite some time to make the desk is in no doubt. By the time it was finished, the Bureau De Roi featured some of the most intricate marquetry going by the standards at that time. For example, there is a marquetry head representing silence on the “public” side of the desk. In that case, the king would be seated on the other side of the desk. All visitors were expected to have high levels of discretion when in the presence of the king.
The surface of the desk is further adorned by vases, busts, statuettes, and plagues of bronze. While the original desk has King Louis XV’s bust on the top, his death in 1770 triggered its replacement. To imitate the original, a simpler version of the Bureau De Roi was created for Grimod Pierre-Gaspard-Marie. This is now part of London’s Wallace Collection. Later on, a number of replicas were made after the 1870s by some of the top cabinet makers in Paris. So you are likely to find one of these the next time you visit an antique shop.
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