The brass and tortoiseshell marquetry on this desk creates an opulent surface.
The numerous decorative motifs include scrolling, intertwined strapwork, masks, theatrical figures, mythological beasts, and cornucopias. Monkeys lounge in the borders, and moths, birds, and phoenixes swoop and dart throughout the design.
Figure and ground continually reverse to create dizzying effects in silhouette.
Similar designs were prevalent in French decoration of the late 1600s, and Jean Berain, a chief designer to Louis XIV, was responsible for many of them. André-Charles Boulle, the most highly regarded ébéniste (a specialized cabinetmaker) of the period, was renowned for his work in gilt bronze and elaborate marquetry.
He created furniture from Berain’s designs, and the two may have collaborated on this desk.