Drop-front desk (secrétaire à abattant or secrétaire en cabinet)

Maker: Attributed to Martin Carlin (French, near Freiburg im Breisgau ca. 1730–1785 Paris)

Factory: Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present)

Decorator: Central plaque decorated by Edme François Bouillat père (French,1739/40–1810, active 1758–1800)

Date: ca. 1776

Culture: French, Paris and Sèvres

Medium: Oak veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, holly, and sycamore; six Sèvres soft-paste porcelain plaques and two painted tin plaques; gilt-bronze mounts; marble shelves; moiré silk

Dimensions: 43 3/8 x 40 1/2 x 12 7/8 in. (110.1 x 102.9 x 32.7cm)

Classification: Woodwork-Furniture

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1976

Accession Number: 1976.155.110


The large Sèvres porcelain plaque bears the date letter for 1776 and the decorator's mark of Edme-François Bouillat (active 1758–81). The secretary stood in Empress Maria Feodorovna's boudoir next to her bedchamber at Pavlovsk Palace. The desk was probably purchased in 1782, when she and Grand Duke Paul visited "incognito" as comte and comtesse du Nord the Paris shop of the marchand-mercier Daguerre. It is a document par excellence of the preeminent cultural influence of France throughout Europe during the ancien régime. A French side table of about 1785–90 made by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806), from the collection of Maria Feodorovna and once kept in the Anichkov Palace in Saint Petersburg, is also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (1977.102.8).