Jacob Burckhardt's desk

Basle, about 1850
Softwood, oilcloth
height 73.5 cm, width 140 cm, depth 96 cm (top, in two parts, 56 cm high, 107 cm wide, 29 cm deep)
Inv. 1990.497.

The desk stood in the private study of the great historian of culture and art Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) in his home at am Aeschgraben 6, where he lived from 1892; a photograph shows it in position there. The desk was probably transferred from the house in St. Alban Vorstadt 64 where he had lived from 1866 until that time. Burckhardt had taken his degree at the university of his native city in 1844 and taught at Basle from 1848 to 1893 as Professor of History and the History of Art. Much of his comprehensive historical work must have been written at this desk. The plain Biedermeier design of the desk with a top with fifteen drawers combines comfort with functionality; despite its formal elegance the desk is not veneered and is surface covered only with black oilcloth. It reflects the rigid discipline and Spartan spirit of its owner.

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