A new acquisition at Temple Newsam House, this beautifully-made table hides an intricate internal mechanism which allows it to transform.
Made from mahogany with inlaid and finely engraved brass decoration, the desk was made in around 1740, possibly by Thomas Potter, a London-based master craftsman.
A complex system of internal springs and weights can be activated with the touch of a button, automatically transforming the desk from a flat tray-top table with a drawer to one suitable for reading or sketching.
The main body of the table also separates to reveal five hidden drawers, one of which contains an original glass inkwell.
Potter is recorded as a cabinet maker in High Holburn in 1737 and was working in partnership with John Kelsey in 1738. Together, they supplied furniture to Sir Richard Colt Hoare for Barn Elms House in 1738, indicating that they were able to attract wealthy clients.
Recently acquired by Temple Newsam, the desk recently featured in the first in a series of sessions at the house entitled Transformers: Furniture in disguise.
Each session will focus on one of the house’s collection of unusual furniture, which also includes the beautiful Channon and Weekes cabinets.
The series of talks take place every third Wednesday of the month at 11.30am.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “To think this extraordinary piece of furniture was made more than 270 years ago really does show the level of painstaking ingenuity that must have gone into its design.
“Temple Newsam has a truly world class collection of furniture and we’re very fortunate to have so much history right on our doorstep.”
The reading and writing table was acquired with support from the Art Fund, Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum purchase grant fund and Leeds Art Fund.
Taking part in Transformers: Furniture in disguise is free but usual admission applies.
For more details, visit: http://whatson.leeds.gov.uk/Pages/eventdetails.aspx?eventId=whatson-1808