Small writing desk (bonheur-du-jour)

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

Factory: Porcelain plaques by Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present)

Decorator: Decorated by Denis Levé (French, active 1754–93, 1795–1805)

Date: ca. 1768

Culture: French, Paris and Sèvres

Medium: Oak veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, and stained sycamore; mahogany; seventeen soft-paste porcelain plaques; gilt-bronze mounts; velvet (not original)

Dimensions: Overall: 32 1/2 × 25 7/8 × 16 in. (82.6 × 65.7 × 40.6 cm)

Classification: Woodwork-Furniture

Credit Line: Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1958

Accession Number: 58.75.48


Martin Carlin is known to have made at least eleven such bonheurs-du-jour, seven of which were signed by him. Raised on four slender curving legs, these tables are mounted with seventeen Sèvres plaques painted with delicate floral ornament, specially ordered for this purpose. Twelve of the plaques on this table bear the date-letter for 1768, the year that Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, bought hers from the marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier. It is possible that this desk was the one that belonged to her.