Joseph Edward Straker Gorham Manufacturing Company Potter and Company William Christmas Codman Franz Ziegler
Lady’s Writing Table and Chair
Joseph Edward Straker, English, Lady’s Writing Table and Chair, 1903, Ebony, mahogany, boxwood, redwood, thuya wood, ivory, mother-of-pearl, silver, mirrored glass, and gilded tooled leather; 127 x 127 x 71.1 cm (50 x 50 x 28 inches), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick B. Thurber 58.095
This masterpiece of inlay marquetry testifies to the technological sophistication and artistic abundance found at Victorian-era world expositions. Providence’s Gorham Manufacturing Company and New York’s Tiffany and Company vied for top honors in silver achievement at these events. At the cost of seventy-five pounds of silver, exotic woods, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and more than seven thousand man hours, Gorham won the grand prize for this lady’s writing table at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. The cast floral ornament is reminiscent of eighteenth-century French rococo work, and Hispano-Moorish designs are apparent in its sinuous floral inlays. The fluid female forms of European Art Nouveau mark this desk as partially modern, but in form and proportion it remains true to traditional American furniture.