Huntington Art Gallery: Mechanical Writing Table

This is one of a suite of five silent videos that focus on an object or architectural element on view in the first-floor period rooms of the Huntington Art Gallery. This video focuses on the mechanical writing table on view in the large library. This writing table opens by means of an elaborate mechanism that simultaneously propels the top surface backward and a large drawer forward. A button, disguised to resemble a portion of one of the gilt-bronze mounts, releases the centre drawer, allowing it to be pushed forward by two steel springs. Mechanical tables catered to a sophisticated clientele fascinated by curiosities and the latest gadgetry. The form of this desk is similar to that of a group of “bureau-toilettes” (writing/dressing tables) made by Jean-François Oeben for Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.

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