PEDESTAL DESKS - 1750 on
A substantial piece of writing furniture deriving from the
type of pedestal 'library' or 'writing table' made and
illustrated by Thomas Chippendale and other high quality
London-based cabinet makers in the mid.18thC. Subsequently
made in a wide range of sizes, the largest being the double.
sided partners' desk, the smallest the half-pedestal devised
around 1900. Particularly popular during the 19th and 20thC
for office use.
GENERAL STYLE AND APPEARANCE
Early library desks (desks with two pedestals) of four drawers with a plain top with frieze
below and carved and shaped apron front; having kneehole recess. Sometimes
paneled cupboard doors enclosing pedestal drawers.
From about 1765 standard form evolved. Made in three parts: two pedestal bases, each containing a flight of three drawers of graduated depth. Sides generally flat when veneered,
paneled when solid. Top with three frieze drawers, outer two of
equal width to drawers below.
By far the majority were rectangular; a few kidney- or D-shaped between about
1790 and 1820. Being free-standing, all visible surfaces were finished.
Second half of 19thC saw continuous production of the standard model, but also an attempt to apply the prevailing historic revival and other styles such as:
Reformed Gothic: Chamfered
edges, panels of diagonal planking, incised line decoration, carved trefoils.
Elizabethan: Heavily carved, dark-stained oak, carved wood, lion's mask, pull handles.
Sheraton: Principally inlay in contrasting colored
satinwood. Cross-banding too.
Partners' desks (from about 1770): As a standard pedestal but double-sized and double-sided. Sometimes there are drawers one side and cupboards the others, but usually I the configuration was identical.
Half-pedestals (about 1900 onwards): Made in one piece with apron below single drawer and simple legs replacing missing side.
Simple office desks (about 1900 onwards): With two four-drawer pedestals I and plain top (i.e. without drawers). Curved apron fronting recess.
Very few genuine 18thC pedestal desks about; those that are fetch
enormous sums. Any example pre-dating 1900 invariably in four figures; only the cheapest type of post-1900 examples can be found for less. On pieces of all dates, any decorative feature - even the use of a wood other than oak or mahogany - may
seem to raise the price disproportionately.
Note: Original leather is rare; replacement (if done properly) does not affect value.