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The Charles Rohlfs Desk: An Exploration of Mystery and Intricate Beauty

Charles Rohlfs Desk | 20th Century Furniture Design

Lot 100: Rare Charles Rohlfs Carved Drop-front Desk with Swivel Base, Est. $40,000-60,000

The desk in this day and age has become a flat, nondescript surface where you place a laptop computer, and perhaps a lamp and a few pens. Gone is the need for numerous tiny compartments holding notepaper, envelopes, ink, blotters, bills, and other paper documents.

While I adore the simplicity and sleek lines of later 20th century furniture designs, I am also drawn in by the mystery and intricate beauty of this early modern desk by Charles Rohlfs.

It’s almost impossible to walk past this desk without stopping for a closer look. The intricate closures and clasps beg to be opened, and the fanciful designs make you wonder what could be kept inside. It makes you feel almost like a child again, like this is a desk that would belong to a hero in a fantastic adventure. To further add to the wonder, the desk swivels on its footed base, allowing you a variety of possibilities for display and design.

The original desk and a matching desk chair were made in 1898-1899 in Buffalo, New York. Called “Graceful Writing Set,” the pair of unique pieces became Rohlfs’ most well-known work. The chair has the same fanciful and fantastic qualities as the desk.

It’s likely that Rohlfs designed the desk and chair in collaboration with his wife, the novelist Anna Katharine Green, as noted  in an article by Joseph Cunningham in The Magazine Antiques.

The desk Skinner is offering is marked on the interior with the date it was made: 1900. Looking at it, you can tell it was a much loved feature of the owners’ household furnishings over the course of the 20th century.

When the Rohlfs desk first arrived at Skinner I told everyone to come and look at it, saying  that it might be the only chance to see this desk in person. You can see it too as it will be sold in the next 20th Century Design auction on December 17, 2011. Come see it during the free public previews on December 15th through 17th in Boston.

Charles Rohlfs Desk | Fanciful Design

This detail of one of the Charles Rohlfs Desk closures shows the fanciful design

Charles Rohlfs Desk | 1900 Mark

The desk is inscribed with the date, 1900, and the Rohlfs mark

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