Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: The Duke of Urbino's Writing Desk, 1600

The Duke of Urbino's Writing Desk
Italy, 1600
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This walnut writing desk, dating to about 1600, bears the coat of arms of Francesco Maria II, Duke of Urbino (reigned 1574 - 1626) whose palace in Pesaro, Italy, on the Adriatic Coast contained various of workshops for artists and craftsmen ranging from watchmakers and silversmiths to painters and illuminators.

An impressive piece, it is decorated with an elaborate inlay of engraved bone which hints at the designs of German weaponry of 1590, but was most certainly made in the ducal workshops at Pesaro by one of the many German woodworkers whom the Duke had taken in.

The inside of the writing desk’s lid is decorated with two cartouches: one with the Duke's arms and the other left blank--presumably so that the Duke could gift it to another ducal family who could add their own arms. Writing boxes also served reading stands. In the early Seventeenth Century, the bible was one of the most-owned books, hence the overuse of religious motifs both inside and out alongside the grotesques which were so fashionable during that era.

No comments: