Bureau Cabinet

North German (Hamburg-Altona), circa 1775

Walnut, burr walnut, carved gilt-wood decoration

Height: 253 cm (99.6 inch)ch
Width: 135 cm (53.1 inch)
Depth: 67 cm (26.4 inch) Ref No: 1786

A superb North German figured walnut, giltwood and gilt-gesso bureau cabinet, the moulded cornice above a mirror panelled door enclosing a fitted interior, above a hinged fall front enclosing various drawers, above three graduating long drawers with gilt-bronze handles, the stand with an elaborate bow-knot-tied pierced apron, the sides with applied parcel-gilt foliate cartouches.

Furniture of this design incorporating walnut and scrolling pierced giltwood elements is generally associated with Altona, one of the leading centres of furniture production in 18th century Northern Europe. The small giltwood scrolls applied to the edges of both upper and lower parts are very characteristic of the work of Altona cabinet-makers; also characteristic of their production is a pierced giltwood stand such as on the offered piece. Related examples are illustrated, Annette-Isabell Kratz, Altonaer Möbel des Rokoko und Klassizismus, Hamburg, 1988.

The present writing cabinet is a masterpiece of the transition from Rococo to Neoclassicism from the Altona workshop of the celebrated ébénist Johann Friedrich Köster, 1747-1812. Such representative and costly pieces were commissioned by the North German and Danish aristocracy not only to furnish the palaces in Schleswig-Holstein, but also as a symbol of status. The type of a mirrored bureau cabinet is otherwise only known in Northern Europe from the courts of Copenhagen, Potsdam or Dresden.