Russian. Circa 1800.


Height: 51" (129.5 cm)
Width: 511/2" (130.8 cm)
Depth: 26"(66 cm).

Of mahogany and gilt and patinated bronze. The superstructure fitted with three two-shelf compartments concealed behind tambour doors, each compartment surmounted by a gilt bronze classical mask and separated by a herm with gilt-bronze Egyptian bust and paired human feet. A plain surface retracts with the front flap pulling out to reveal an original red leather writing surface, the sides with replaced gilt-bronze gallery and ending in gilt and patinatned bronze replaced urn-form finials at the front corners set on replaced circular bases, all above a central frieze drawer flanked by two drawers with gilt-bronze handles with pierced oval backplates and replaced leonine masks, foliate pommels and double serpent-form drops. The whole raised on four square tapering legs, the front legs diagonally turned and headed by gilt-bronze classical female busts and each leg terminating in replaced bronze paired human feet, the side legs joined by replaced molded stretchers. Some small mounts lacking.

J. PAF…[only accessible when top shelf is removed]

An old handwritten label reads:

From Palace of Paul I Son of Catherine the Great of Russia signed Jean Pafrat cir. 1785. Item #206 Wallace Day Sale 1/30/31—

Romanov family private apartments within the Imperial Palaces of Russia.
Sold by Wallace Day Galleries, 27 February 1931, Lot 206 as part of confiscated Romanov items.

The present bureau, which was sold in 1931 as part of a tranche of 500 items confiscated by the Soviet government from the Imperial Romanov family, is confidently attributed to Heinrich Daniel Gambs (1765-1831) as it bears highly distinctive features of Gambs’ oeuvre, and relates very closely to four confidently ascribed pieces by the cabinetmaker in Russian Imperial collections. These include, in particular, bureaux in the Marble Palace, Saint Petersburg; the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; the State Historical Museum, Moscow; and Pavlovsk Palace, St. Petersburg.

With the exception of one stamped item from in the collection of the Historical Museum later in the second quarter of the 19th century,1 no signed Gambs pieces are known and attributions rest on historical records as well as the recurring use of materials, decorative motifs, and of identical bronze mounts in his furniture which “. . .enables us to identify some of these pieces with certainty, especially when they bear the same bronze ornamentation as pieces with a well documented history.”2 It is on this basis that the present bureau may be compared and ascribed to Gambs, as seen in the following examples.

Firstly, a mahogany bureau in the Marble Palace, although missing many of its bronze fittings, shares the bureau à gradin form with the same shaped double-arches surmounting the tambour doors of the superstructure, as well as its herm-form bronze Egyptian busts and paired feet (figure 1). The front legs are also angled outward and are likewise headed by bronze classical female busts, although of a different mold. According to Dr. Natalia Vladimirovna Ugleva, senior researcher at the State Historical Museum, Moscow, “[he used] one of his favorite devices – the support in the shape of a herm-leg.”3

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.