This monumental, one-of-a-kind map desk hails from the Imperial Palace of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I, ruler of both Austria and Hungary from 1848 until 1916. The incredible, massive desk features 28 flat drawers — seven on each side — which were used to store not only important maps of the empire, but also irreplaceable architectural drawings of palaces, cathedrals and other civil structures. Biedermeier in style, it is crafted from birch, which was then one of the rarest, most expensive materials used by cabinet makers. It is absolutely, without question, the finest desk of its kind in existence, and it is certainly without peer in terms of engineering, craftsmanship and provenance.
The entire surface of the giant desk is adorned with multiple layers of intricate inlay work, featuring specimens of burr walnut, satinwood and straight grain walnut. Each corner is accented by columns with exquisitely carved and gilt moldings and capitals, all in exceptional condition.
Unlike most map chests whose doors often impede the interior drawers, these doors swing effortlessly on hidden hinges. Furthermore, they are designed to open fully and flush with the adjoining sides, allowing complete access to the large, sliding drawers. Even the key is hinged so that it fits flush with the side of the cabinet. With its large surface area and ample storage, this desk would make an impressive conference or library table and will certainly command any room in which it is placed.
M.S. Rau first acquired this piece nearly 25 years ago, and it has a superb provenance. It was almost certainly made for the Habsburg emperors, and most likely for Emperor Franz Joseph I. Hand-crafted for one of the great Habsburg palaces, this monumental desk is the only example of its type known.
In 1848, while still in his teens, Franz Joseph I took control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and an aging Habsburg Empire in the midst of grave revolutionary turmoil. Eager to restore control over the empire, Franz Joseph inaugurated a strict program of centralized government control, which was responsible for significant social and cultural progress. In 1866, Franz Joseph granted Hungary autonomy from Austria (though he remained King and Emperor of both countries). Renowned and respected for his sense of duty and austere nature, he led the country to excel in the areas of education, music, literature and medicine. His reign was truly a time of great and at-times tumultuous change both in his own country and around the world.
One can only speculate about the number of times the emperor gathered with his advisors around this cabinet to discuss and plan matters of both joyous and grave importance. Both in times of turmoil and peace, it held the plans and documents that would shape an empire.
125 1/2" wide x 65" deep x 35" high