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New Acquisition for the Kunstgewerbemuseum: Magnificent Piece of Furniture From the Royal Workshop of José Canops


The Kunstgewerbemuseum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is pleased to announce the acquisition of a magnificent piece of furniture from the Madrid royal workshop of José Canops. The cylinder desk, which is one of the crowning achievements of 18th-century furniture design, was acquired with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Rudolf-August Oetker-Stiftung für Kunst, Kultur, Wissenschaft und Denkmalpflege and the Julius-Lessing-Gesellschaft, the friends group of the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

Sculpturally modelled from all angles, this desk was designed to be a freestanding centrepiece. It is built entirely of mahogany and covered with the rarest veneers, and unfolds to reveal stunning and intricate ornamentation. Musical motifs of Spanish origin and flowers from the “New World” feature prominently on the piece, but the subtle reference to the elephant should not be overlooked; the imposing animals were primarily known from India and were a symbol of global power.

The Desk’s Journey to the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s Collection

The desk comes from the German art trade (Laer, Münsterland) and can be traced all the way back to the time of its production. After being delivered to the Spanish court and purportedly donated to the merchant Isaac Behrend Goldschmidt, the following owner was the financier Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (1778–1859). Goldsmid transported the desk to England, where it was inherited by Sir Julian Goldsmid (1838–1896). At his estate auction in 1896 (held by the auction house Christie’s in London), it remained in the family. In 2001 it came onto the art market again via Christie’s.

This piece now enriches the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s European and international collection with a spectacular major work of furniture. The piece can be seen in Room VII from mid-October 2021 onwards.