David–Weill desk, ca. 1918–19
Émile–Jacques Ruhlmann (French, 1879–1933)
Amboyna, ivory, sharkskin, silk; H. 37 1/2 in. (95.3 cm), W. 47 1/2 in. (120.7 cm), D. 29 1/2 in. (74.9 cm)
Purchase, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. Gift, 1973 (1973.154.1)
This desk is based on French and English kidney-shaped desks of the late eighteenth century, known as "rognon" or "Carlton House" desks; the link to historical precedent would have been obvious—even desirable—to the client who commissioned it. David David-Weill (1871–1952), was an American-born French financier who worked at Lazard Frères, his family's bank. A serious art collector, upon his death he bequeathed more than 2,000 works to French and American museums. His greatest interest lay in the arts of eighteenth-century France, with which he decorated his house. Accordingly, Ruhlmann designed the desk specifically to harmonize with these surroundings, and David-Weill used a Louis XVI armchair with it. The aesthetic elegance, material sumptuousness, and high-quality craftsmanship of Ruhlmann's furniture holds its own against eighteenth-century masterpieces.