Bonheur du jour
A bonheur du jour (in French, bonheur-du-jour, meaning "daytime delight") is a type of lady's writing desk. It was introduced in Paris by one of the interior decorators and purveyors of fashionable novelties called marchands-merciers about 1760, and speedily became intensely fashionable. The bonheur du jour is always very light and graceful, with a decorated back, since it often did not stand against the wall (meuble meublant) but was moved about the room (meuble volant); its special characteristic is a raised back, which may form a little cabinet or a nest of drawers, or open shelves, which might be closed with a tambour , or may simply be fitted with a mirror. The top, often surrounded with a chased and gilded bronze gallery, serves for placing small ornaments. Beneath the writing surface there is usually a single drawer, often neatly fitted for toiletries or writing supplies. Early examples were raised on slender cabriole legs; under the influence of neoclassicism, examples made after about 1775 had straight, tapering legs.
The marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier had the idea of mounting bonheurs du jour with specially-made plaques of Sèvres porcelain that he commissioned and for which he had a monopoly; the earliest Sèvres-mounted bonheurs du jour are datable from the marks under their plaques to 1766-67 (illus.). Other choice examples of the time are inlaid with marquetry or panels of Oriental lacquer, banded with exotic woods, with gilt-bronze mounts.
By the mid-1770s the bonheur du jour was being made in London, where it was simply called a "lady's writing-desk".
- F.J.B. Watson once suggested that "its somewhat obscure name perhaps refers to its sudden and astonishing success." (Watson, Louis XVI Furniure [London: Tiranti] 1960:23, note 8); the first appearance of the term bonheur du jour that he identified was in 1770, in an inventory of the duc de Villars' property at Marseille.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bonheur du Jour". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 205.
- Svend Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France (London: Faber & Faber) 1974, plate 111, bonheur du jour stamped by Martin Carlin in the Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris; another with plaques dated for 1766 is in the James A. de Rothschild collection, Waddesdon Manor.
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