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Current time:0:00Total duration:2:26

Video transcript

This mechanical table was made specifically for Madame du Pompadour, who conquered the heart of the French king Louis XV. Jean-François Oeben, the cabinetmaker, absolutely catered to her taste. There’s not a straight line to be seen. The soft curves--it’s almost like the curves of the human body. She was elevated to the rank of nobility. The little turrets at the top of the legs were the charges of her coat of arms. The marquetry reflects all the different past times. And she was an amazing patron of the arts. You see the palette referring to painting, the rolled up sheet of music, architectural tools and a drawing, and then a whole host of gardening tools with this abundance of naturalistic flowers referring to her love of beautiful gardens. With this abundance of naturalistic flowers referring to her love of beautiful gardens. Oeben chose different woods: ebony, holly, the barbary wood to depict daffodils or sunflowers. They would use dyes to enhance the colors; you can find some of the green color. The table is completely framed in gilt bronze and that really guides our eyes to the beautiful undulating outline and it protects those areas. She could manipulate the hidden buttons. The mechanism that you could wind up, the top would slide back almost like magic, and then give access to the different compartments. This table enabled her to show off her elegant gestures, letter writing, to read and perhaps recite love poetry. This type of furniture allowed you to move in certain ways that might be seductive. There’s a real interplay between the patron and the artwork: they need each other. The cabinetmaker died in 1763 and Madame du Pompadour the following year. We don’t actually know if she ever took possession of this table, and the history of this table is for a large part unknown.