A 17th Century Italian (possibly Hungarian) Nobleman’s Desk in Tarsia Incastro, with the top pattern in point de Hongrie, surrounding a heraldic shield motif. The Vanderbilt’s acquired this piece in 1907 at the legendary Donatello Palace sale of Medici works of art. When it reached the London Joiners Ltd. studio there were many missing tiles of wood, especially on the desk surface. Also missing were the ebony drawer escutcheons and dozens of pieces on the legs. Old wood was used to replace that which was missing, and a perfect match of patina was achieved.
A detail of the top, showing the initials R C surrounded by a field of ermine tassels, over which is a royal crown. The significance of tassels was a mystery to Maliszewski until, by chance, such was explained in a book by George Steiner (Errata: An Examined Life, Yale Univ. Press 1998). When a nobleman joined the Church he gave up his personal coat of arms and a field of ermine tassels, the number of which signified rank, replaced the family armorial. The initials remained, and the crown which signified royal birth. The initials, RC, remain unexplained. Photo by Don Dempsey.