Ref. 688/1

G. Viardot

Cabinet-maker (1830-1906)
(attributed to)

Japanese style Cylinder Desk

Circa 1880

Tinted alder, Mother-of-pearl, Gilded bronze

Height : 137 cm (53,9 in.) ; Width : 134 cm (52,7 in.) ; Depth : 74 cm (29,1 in.)

Rare Japanese style cylinder desk in tinted and carved alder, richly engraved on all sides with foliage, cherry branches and geometric interlacing.  Surmounted by two asymmetrical shelves, the cylinder is decorated with an engraved dragon. Opening this cylinder reveals many compartments with adjustable dimensions, a drawer with engraved decoration and letter storage. The cylinder sides can open laterally, allowing a larger area for working and writing.
The lower part of the desk is formed on the left by five superimposed drawers decorated with geometric interlacing and carved branches, as well as Japanese characters, deer and mother-of-pearl foliage. On the right, there is a drawer and a door decorated with carved leaves and mother-of-pearl interlacing, revealing four drawers forming compartments.
An ingenious mechanism makes it possible, when the cylinder is closed with a key, to completely lock the desk.


Gabriel Viardot career began as a wood carver and he produced small furniture, sculpturally carved with naturalistic motifs and animals. In the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris, his finely sculpted objects were well received. However, with the increasing importation of similarly produced Swiss and German articles, he found less opportunity for these and decided to innovate. G. Viardot succeeded to his father’s business in 1861 installed rue Rambuteau in Paris. Around 1870 he turned to the idea of producing « Meubles genre Chinois et Japonais ». The taste in Europe for exotic furniture, incorporating sometimes authentic Chinese or Japanese objects was well established. But Viardot early designed his own models enriched with ivory, mother-of-pearl and beautiful gilt-bronze mounts. After having won four medals at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867, Viardot was awarded a silver medal at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris. He was also awarded gold medals several times : Universal Exhibitions in Anvers (Belgium) in 1884, and again in Paris in 1889 and 1900. A contemporary commentator notes that he had a workshop employing approximately 100 men, both sculptors and cabinet-makers with another 25 to 30 outside contract workers. « l’Escalier de Cristal », the famous Parisian offering luxurious furniture got the exclusivity to use their own stamp on six Viardot’s furniture models.

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