Carlo Bugatti, c 1902
Strikingly original, Carlo Bugatti’s furniture combines the picturesque asymmetry of Art Nouveau with the exoticism of Moorish and Japanese influences. Yet, there is nothing derivative in Bugatti’s work; rather, it is pure fantasy, drawing inspiration from the Orientalist art movement of the late nineteenth century, a fact underscored by the name of his business in Milan: C. Bugatti & C., Fabbrica Mobili Artistici Fantasia. The writing surface of this desk is covered in vellum, held in place with punched copper strapping; the walnut legs are inlaid with pewter imitating calligraphic brush painting. The unusual profile of the desk suggests the jaws and teeth of an alligator. The model was used in one of Bugatti’s few completed interiors-a theatrical bedroom designed about 1901 for the London residence of Lord Battersea.