"David-Weill" Desk

Designer: Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (French, Paris 1879–1933 Paris)

Date: ca. 1918–19

Medium: Amboyna, ivory, sharkskin, silk, metal, oak, lumber-core plywood, poplar, walnut, birch, macassar ebony

Dimensions: 37 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 29 1/2in. (95.3 x 120.7 x 74.9cm)

Classification: Woodwork-Architectural

Credit Line: Purchase, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. Gift, 1973

Accession Number: 1973.154.1


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.