Herter Brothers, one of the premiere cabinetmaking operations in New York City, made this desk in 1882 for the Fifth Avenue home of the New York financier Jay Gould (1836–1892). Gould commissioned the desk as a gift for his wife, Helen, to match their existing bedroom suite, also by Herter Brothers. This desk is a sophisticated example of Herter Brothers’ high Aesthetic design. The exuberant golden marquetry against the glossy black surface illustrates the influence of Eastern lacquerware, which strongly informed the Anglo-Japanese style popular during the period. The desk also acknowledges the eclecticism of contemporary design through its use of an eighteenth-century form, the fall-front secretary. It was constructed, however, in a simplified Eastlake, or reform, style and adorned with a symmetrical, stylized floral motif rooted in Near Eastern sources. The combination of these elements results in a piece true to the design tenets of the Aesthetic Movement.
Inscription: stamped on top of back: HERTER BRO'S
Jay Gould, New York; Paul Martini Galleries, New York, until 1969