Antique of the Week ~ Desk or Bureau

n antique desk, or as the French call it bureau plat, is a highly desirable antique, being relatively rare.  In fact, I am often asked by our clients the reason for this scarcity.  The antique desk as we know it today did not appear until the 17th century and even then only royals and nobles possessed such precious appointments.  During the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI the bureau was perfected and epitomized.

Antique French Regence Partner's Desk

Crafted from solid French red oak for generations of enjoyment, this beautiful partner's desk was hand-carved in the Regence manner, and features four graceful cabriole legs with drawers accessible from both sides. Desks are rare enough as it is, but to find a partner's desk in this condition is truly a cause for celebration! The Regence style is considered by many to be the most artistically refined of French styles, as it blends the rococo with the baroque and provided a transition between the reigns of Louis XIV and his grandson, Louis XV. Partner's desks are ideal for offices and home use, as one can easily compartmentalize tasks, and a generous working surface is also a plus. Circa 1880s.

The brilliance of André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) shone during the reign of the Sun King Louis XIV, and his incredible marquetry and bronze designs are still copied today.   The styling of the French antique desk continued to be developed on through the 18th century.  The new epoch of the 19th century with its intense periods of style revivals of many historical designs inspired creations of astonishing variety.   From the humble beginnings of a scribe’s simple slanted writing box, the desk developed legs and drawers and ultimately, the elegant bureau was born!

Detail shots of the desk pictured above.

Only during the 19th century did the desk become popular with the middle class and academia, since up until then the general public was not as widely educated as we are today.  Most of the population did not know how to read and write, and in addition all books and writing implements were comparatively costly.  Country French antique desks began to appear towards the end of the 19th century as the styles of previous centuries were revived and reinvented.  The desk at the very top of this article is a perfect example of this era, as France continued time-honored traditions, holding high esteem for the glorious styles and traditions of the past.


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