• Paris, ca. 1761
  • Oak, elm, limewood and exotic woods; gilt bronze, velvet, mirror 
  • Inv. 749
  • Decorative Arts

Mechanical table

Jean-François Oeben

Paris, ca. 1761

The flowing, yet sober lines of this piece, combined with the perfection of the decoration and the precision of the mechanism it holds, make this one of the masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection.

The lid, completely covered by a motif alluding to the construction of the Military Academy, slides back when a key is turned to show a reading stand flanked by two compartments covered by hinged flap. The reading stand, lined with green velvet, turns on a horizontal axis, to reveal a mirror on its reverse.

Madame de Pompadour may have commissioned this table as a gift for the Duke of Argenson. Mechanical furniture was one of the great novelties of the eighteenth century, greatly appreciated by a society that loved to be surrounded by luxurious objects, but was not above using them for practical purposes, especially if they added to their comfort.


Rothschild collection, Frankfurt; Albert de Goldschmidt-Rothschild collection, Berlin. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Mme Petrocochino, in December 1929.

H. 71 cm; W. 110 cm; Prof. 53 cm 

Coutinho 1999

Maria Isabel Pereira Coutinho – 18th Century French Furniture, Lisboa, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 1999, p. 167-176, no. 14, ils.

Versailles 2000

Chefs-d’oeuvre du musée Gulbenkian de Lisbonne. Meubles et objets royaux du XVIIIe siècle français, exhibition catalogue, (Château de Versailles), Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux / Lisbonne, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (eds.), 2000, p. 70-75, no. 19, pls.