Drop-front Secretary (Secrétaire à Abattant)
Guillaume Beneman, cabinetmaker
French, b. Germany, d. 1811
Drop-front Secretary (Secrétaire à Abattant), ca. 1800-1810
Mahogany and oak with brass and gilded bronze mounts, embossed leather, marble top
143.5 x 114.3 x 42.6 cm (56 1/2 x 45 x 16 3/4 inches)
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund 80.106
The maker of this fall-front secretary is unmistakable: it carries four stamps by Guillaume Beneman. Beneman served as master cabinetmaker to the French crown from 1784 to 1792, and, unlike other artisans, his work remained in favor after the fall of the ancien régime. This desk’s motifs are associated with Napoléon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign (1798—1799). The palm leaves, recumbent lions, and caryatids (female figural supports) are superbly modeled in gilded bronze. Matching furniture Beneman made for Napoléon and similar pieces he created for Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, suggest that a member of the Napoleonic imperial family once owned this secretary.