Musée d'Orsay: Carlo Bugatti Lady's Desk

Carlo Bugatti
Lady's Desk

Lady's Desk
Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940)
Lady's Desk
Model designed circa 1890-1898
Black stained walnut, bone inlay, incrustations of pewter, parchment,embossed and pierced copper, hazelnuts
H. 134.8; W. 71; D. 60.5 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Bureau de dame [Lady's Desk]

A spider on one of the drawers, hazelnuts for handles? Carlo Bugatti had fun decorating this lady's writing desk and enjoyed his own whim. Indeed, everything about it is playful, like the stool rising cheekily from one corner of the desk. The content of the drawers is announced in mysterious pseudo-Japanese lettering, unless it is pseudo-Arabic. There are even versions of the desk with hieroglyphs on the front of the drawers.

Here Carlo Bugatti has produced a variant of his famous lady's writing desk, designed about 1888-1890, which had become the most highly prized piece in his collection. The desk was featured in an article in the English magazine Furniture and Decoration & The Furniture Gazette of 15 May 1895, dedicated to Bugatti's furniture sold in Berlin by Ernst Kopp & Co. In opposition to the Japanese look of contemporary English designs, its Moorish character was emphasised by the name "Granada Furniture" in reference to the Alhambra in Grenada. In 1904-1905, this little desk was still in the catalogue published by the firm De Vecchi which had just taken over Bugatti and continued to manufacture its furniture.

The soft furnishings which originally finished the desk are unfortunately missing on this copy. The long rows of silk fringes, trimmed with scintillating, tinkling squared metal tassels changed the look of the desk considerably. This touch of extravagance and exoticism may have been inspired by Buffalo Bill's shows that were popular throughout Europe at the time.

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