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Antique French Music Box Cigar Desk

Antique French Music Box Cigar Desk

$1,500.00

Constructed to satisfy the exacting standards of any discerning member of the Royal Court of Lilliput, this desk would take pride of place in the most stately miniature room designed for the purpose of ruling a minuscule business empire.

Perfectly crafted in ebony and ebonized pine down to the last exterior detail with tiny age-patinated brass drawer pulls and a brass gallery rail surrounding its wee work surface, this rare, miniature piece conceals an alternative use in our large-scale world: each of the six side drawer interiors are constructed of mahogany to cradle a pair of slender cigars or your collection of fountain pens, while the center drawer is handy for pen nibs, matches, or the kind of tiny antique smoking tools that facilitate after dinner cigars with that comforting glass of tawny port.

Found in the treasure-rich markets of France, there are hidden clues to the desk’s long history dating from the mid-to-late 19th century.  These telling clues include a French déposé mark — showing its design was deemed clever enough to protect — pressed into the top, and a paper label pasted underneath. The label once declared the name of the tune that the desk still plays, but the years have faded the handwriting beyond reading. Even still, wind the music box with the key hidden on the desk's underside and when the center drawer is opened, the desk gently plays its magical tune. (Please see video below to hear the desk's music box.)

Whether you are an artist, scribe, or belletrist with a penchant for fine writing tools, or an old fashioned evening smoker with discerning taste, this enchanting, museum-quality piece will bring you (and anyone you share it with!) years of delight.


Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. Measures 5.5" H x 9"L x 5"W. Circa 1850. In very good antique condition. 

Learn More About Miniature Furniture

Miniature furniture has long fascinated collectors both in Europe and America. It is important, however, to note the difference between various types of miniature furniture. Some furniture was made for use by children in the nursery, such as stools, tables and the still commonly found child’s chairs, approximately half size. Doll’s house furniture, approximately 1/10 to 1/12 (to full size), were not only play pieces, but larger examples were used to teach young ladies household management.

The collector of miniature furniture however, is usually interested in pieces of 1/8 scale, which may have been masterpieces, apprentice pieces, models, samples and show pieces. In 18th century France, young men were apprenticed to Masters who were members of guilds. Usually the apprentice learned his trade for six years and made pieces under the Master's tutelage for a further three years.

While full size examples of furniture were more commonly made for examination in 18th century France, by the 19th century, miniature examples were used. 

In England, under the Statute of Artifices of 1563, a man could by law only become a master craftsman after serving an apprenticeship of seven years. It was stated that “Until a man grows into 23 years, he for the most part, although not always wild, is without judgment and not of sufficient experience to govern himself.”

Surviving finer pieces of miniature furniture point to a craftsman showing skills as if for examination and approval. For example, a chest of drawers can have complicated inlays, crossbanding between and on the drawers, working locks, gilt brass handles, and an interior revealing shaped drawers and cupboard, etc.

In England, miniature furniture was used as advertisements in shop windows of furniture makers and retailers. A potential purchaser could examine the piece and discuss extra cost details, such as further inlays or choice of woods such as oak, walnut or mahogany. Equally important was the traveling retailer going to the small town or country house where the customer could be shown a miniature example, the viewing of a three dimensional example being more effective than only sketches or drawings.

Further 18th and 19th century miniature pieces were made for particular purposes. For example, miniature pianos opened to reveal a work box interior, or miniature chest of drawers were used as cosmetic cabinets.

Whatever the reasons for the existence of miniature furniture may be, they do have great appeal in just being tiny versions of a full sized piece. And then wondering if an apprentice boy made it for practice and perhaps gave it to his sweetheart? Did a child play with it, as a very special toy? Or is the attention to scale and detail so perfect as to make it a sample to tempt customers to order a full size one? Perhaps it is the mystery unsolved that holds the key to the attraction of miniature furniture. 

*Miniature Furniture history courtesy of Andrew Jenkins of Incollect

 

 

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