Ippolit Monighetti (1819-78)
Walnut, with birch drawer linings and pine secondary wood, nickel-plated iron mounts and Finnish red quartzite top
77 x 152. 4 x 81.3 cm
Russian (St Petersburg), circa 1871
Gift of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909), a son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia (1818-81), to Lt. Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Arthur Ellis (1837-1907), equerry to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII (1841-1910), from 1867; thence by descent to the present owner
‘To Lt. Col. Arthur Ellis, Grenadier Guards, from the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia in remembrance of HIH’s visit to England, June 1871’ (on ‘silver’ plaque fixed to the front of the desk). There is also a paper label in one of the drawers with the name of the recent vendor’s family.
Nikolay Prokhorov,Russian Style Furniture, Moscow, 2006, p. 6, for a closely related design in the collection of the State Archive of the Russian Federation, where dated circa 1860
The form of the present desk suggests that the Grand Duke had an appreciation for cutting-edge contemporary design. He built himself the Vladimir Palace (1867-72), overseen by the architect Alexander Rezanov (1817-87), on the Neva across from the Peter and Paul Fortress. Moreover, this interest might be further emphasised by his visit to the London International Exhibition (The Times Court Circular, 15 June 1871). That same day, he also attended a levée at Buckingham Palace, where Maj. Gen. Hon. A. Hardinge and Col. Ellis (Equerries to Her Majesty and the Prince of Wales) were in attendance. It was as a result of the Grand Duke’s visit to Great Britain that the desk was presented to Ellis.
For more on the relationship between the British Royal Family and Russia, see Caroline de Guitaut and Stephen Patterson (eds), Russia: Art, Royalty and the Romanovs, London, 2018.