"David-Weill" Desk

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (French, Paris 1879–1933 Paris)
ca. 1918–19
Amboyna, ivory, sharkskin, silk, metal, oak, lumber-core plywood, poplar, walnut, birch, macassar ebony
37 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 29 1/2in. (95.3 x 120.7 x 74.9cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. Gift, 1973
Accession Number:
Not on view
This desk is based on French and English kidney-shaped desks of the late eighteenth century known as “rognon” (kidney) desks; the link to historical precedent would have been obvious— even desirable—to the client who commissioned it: David David-Weill (1871–1952), an Americanborn French financier who worked at Lazard Frères, his family’s bank. A serious art collector, he bequeathed more than two thousand works to French and American museums. His greatest interest lay in the arts of eighteenth-century France, with which he decorated his home. 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 hold their own against eighteenth-century masterpieces.
Inscription: Signed (underside of writing surface, branded): Ruhlmann
David David-Weill, Paris (probably until d. 1952; commissioned from the artist); [Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris, by 1972–73; sold to MMA]

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Century of Design, Part I: 1900–1925," December 14, 1999–March 26, 2000, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco," June 10–September 5, 2004, no. 5.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco," September 30–December 12, 2004, no. 5.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of French Art Deco," August 4, 2009–January 23, 2011, no catalogue.

Jean Laran. "Notre Enquête sur le Mobilier moderne." Art et Décoration 37 (January–June 1937), pp. 10–12, ill.

Penelope Hunter in "Twentieth Century Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 229, ill.

Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. "The Decorative Arts of the Twentieth Century." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37 (Winter 1979–1980), pp. 20–23, ill. (color and bw, overall and details).

R. Craig Miller. Modern Design in The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1890–1990. New York, 1990, p. 40, ill. pp. 102–5 (color, overall and details).

Karrie Jacobs. "The Art of the Design Museum." Metropolis 10 (December 1990), ill. p. 43.

Jared Goss in Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco. Ed. Emmanuel Bréon and Rosalind Pepall. Exh. cat., Musée des Années 30, Boulogne-Billancourt. Paris, 2004, pp. 166–70, 288, no. 5, ill. (color).

Florence Camard. Jacques Émile Ruhlmann. New York, 2011, pp. 144–46, 471, 498, ill., reproduces a painting by Paul Huguet depicting this desk in the living room of David-Weill.

Jared Goss. French Art Deco. New York, 2014, pp. 190–93, 262, no. 53, ill. (color, overall and detail).