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Secrétaire à Abattant by Molitor


This most extraordinary secrétaire à abattant by Bernard Molitor displays superb proportion and balance. Beautifully crafted of mahogany with ormolu mounts and accented by a fine white marble top, the secrétaire features a fall-front that opens to reveal a green tooled-leather writing surface and a multitude of fitted drawers (in both the secretary and base), shelves and secret compartments, perfect for protecting one’s most precious documents. Born in Luxembourg, Molitor was one of the rare and fortunate ebeniste whose furniture-making business prospered both before and after the French Revolution. Because of his long career, Molitor's work reflects the changing fashions in furniture, from the grand and elaborate pieces of the ancient regime, the austere and sparsely decorated furniture of the Revolution and Republic, to the Louis XVI influence during Napoleon's reign. Molitor is known for using only the finest woods, mounts, and hardware, and his precisely made, beautifully finished work exhibits an architectural sense of proportion and restraint of decoration that suggest a thoroughly modern functionalism. A similar secrétaire à abattant stamped by Molitor is featured in Les Ebeniste Du XIXe Sie'cle, page 489 Stamped “B. Molitor,” circa 1790. Molitor did not become a master ebeniste until 1787. In 1788, he began to receive commissions from the Royal court. One of his earliest royal orders was a mahogany floor for Queen Marie-Antoinette's boudoir at Fontainebleau. This led to other orders from the queen and members of the aristocracy, including furniture for “Mesdames Tents,” the aunts of Louis XVI, for the chateau at Bellevue, which made use of small-scale ormolu eagles, griffins and thunderbolts, anticipating the Empire style. In 1790, Marie-Antoinette commissioned a pair of ebony secretaire-cabinets, decorated with black and gold Chinese lacquer (Paris, Louvre). Molitor continued to produce work throughout the Directoire period and made furniture for the imperial family and court of Napoleon until 1815. From 1816 until his retirement about 1820 Molitor supplied the kings of France and England with splendid ebony and lacquer cabinets, as well as a chest of drawers (the latter bought by the Prince of Wales, later George IV). Although the Revolution forced him to close his workshop for a period of time, he opened it again with even greater success. With the help of a large staff, Molitor was able to produce a variety of commodes, writing and dining tables, desks, secrétaires and cabinets, usually veneered with mahogany, satinwood, or Japanese lacquer and decorated with finely chased gilt bronze mounts. There aren’t many marked pieces by Molitor, which makes this secrétaire exceptionally rare.


  • Dimensions

    H 57 in. x W 40.25 in. x D 18 in.

    H 144.78 cm x W 102.24 cm x D 45.72 cm

  • Seller location
    New Orleans, LA
  • Seller reference number
  • Reference number

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1stdibs seller since 2010
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Located in New Orleans, LA
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