By William Gregory MRICS, Golding Young and Mawer.
The name Bugatti is synonymous with great feats of design, whether it be perfecting the look and performance of motor cars or as one of the forerunners in artistic Art Nouveau creations, interior decoration and jewellery.
The fine furniture seen in the most exclusive high streets which bears the name of the father Carlo Bugatti is just as important as his son Ettore’s empire in motoring – Bugatti is a household name in both disciplines throughout the world.
The desk illustrated and found in a North Lincolnshire house clearance, which appeared in a recent sale in Lincoln, was by the master designer Eugenio Quarti (1867-1929), a friend of Bugatti senior, who not only worked alongside the great man but even married his daughter.
Quarti’s furniture is of the very highest quality and was at the forefront of the early Art Nouveau style, using only the finest and exotic woods and embellishments such as the rosewood and nacre inlays illustrated in this desk. It bears his signature which rubberstamps the appeal. The other table illustrated is of good design and look, but created much less interest as the quality isn’t there and it is only loosely attributed to the Bugatti look. The Quarti desk has the bonuses of being produced with the highest quality raw materials; it is stylish, signed and ticks the boxes which helped create the final hammer price of £2,600.
As early as 1899 Vittorio Pica had written a most positive article on Quarti’s work. In 1900 he won the Grand Prix award at the Paris International and by the early 1900s had collaborated in the design of buildings with the likes of the great Giuseppe Sommaruga and Luigi Broggi.
Like with all great designers and ably illustrated with this desk, Quarti juxtaposed usefulness with stylishness, creating an item small in stature but as much of a talking point in a home as you would see from Carlo Bugatti then and in the stores that bear his name today; whether it be a modern
Cobra chair based on a design from 100 years ago or a Noire armchair, or this desk, these are items that will always serve the test of time and will be desirable in 50 years, or maybe even 500, as much as they are today.
An identical copy of the desk resides in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and Quarti’s work can be seen in a great many museums from Miami to Turin.
This great designer died in Milan in 1929 and from the relative humble beginnings of his birth at Villa d’ Almè, Bergamo, the name Eugenio Quarti continues to reside at the top table of design and his title ‘The Goldsmith of Furniture Makers’ is as apt now as it was one hundred years ago.