Desk / Cabinet, 1913
Various woods, mother-of-pearl, ivory, silk. Bequest of Eleanor May Sarton. 1996-9-1.
- Designed by Mabel Sarton
What is this?
Rectangular four legged wood cabinet with two front doors opening into a desk. Bottom front of cabinet with decoration of vertical striped pattern; front doors, each decorated with an oval design of flowers, open front center to reveal desk equipped with multiple drawers and filing systems.
This object is full of stories
This writing desk's design, production, and use hold equal fascination. Eleanor Mabel Sarton, born in England, designed the desk—which has a mix of Belgian, French, and Austrian influences—as part of a suite of furniture while working for a Brussels interior design firm. Its cabinetwork was executed in Belgium and the marquetry in Bavaria, and it was exhibited in a showroom at the 1913 Ghent (Belgium) exposition. Shortly after, in 1915, the designer, her husband, the historian George Sarton, and their young daughter, May (who would become a well-known poet and author), left war-torn Europe for the United States. After the war ended, George purchased the desk and it stayed in the family until May’s death in the 1990s. May, who spoke lovingly of her mother’s furniture designs, wrote that the desk was akin to a jewel. Mabel Sarton, however, did not emphasize preciousness in her work, but practicality, beauty, and comfort; her use of rich woods, ivory, and mother-of-pearl shows an appreciation of materials and a simple, clean form. She called furniture like this desk, with details inside and out, folding doors and secret drawers hiding "necessary but unbeautiful" goods "surprise furniture."