The Getty: Desks and Writing Accessory Collection

I love museums. When I was in China in the summer of 2012 and Taiwan in the summer of 2013, I made it a point to visit national museums. I did the same when I visited San Francisco one summer. Heck, I’ve even taken vacations down to San Diego and spent a weekend just going to museums.

What can I say? I may be a bit of an addict. History is fascinating, though, from looking at the national treasures of China at the Taiwanese National Museum of Art to checking out the living rooftop of the California Academy of Sciences Museum in San Francisco, every museum I’ve visited has left me a little bit richer in the way of knowledge.

This weekend I visited The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Aka, my own backyard. While many of the collections made an impression on me, what got me the most excited was desk collection.

Yes, you heard me, desks. The Getty had an impressive collection of writing and reading desks ranging from the 17th and 18th centuries.

I gotta say, the French know how to make a desk. These desks were not only stunning to look at, but they had hidden drawers and surprisingly ingenious mechanics. Don’t believe me? Check out this video:

That desk slices, dices, and juliennes, if you get what I’m saying. Or, if you don’t, I’m saying it does everything.

This 18th century desk is just one of many in The Getty’s collection. I also fell in love with this double desk made in Paris, France, around 1750.

I don’t usually find gold appealing, but it works so well with the wood and the design.

While the desk itself is beautiful, the real genius of this furniture comes from its function. This desk folds out so two people can make use of it at once.

Or, I suppose if you weren’t in the mood to share a writing desk, you could use double the space and switch sides whenever the fancy struck.

The craftsman for this desk was Bernard van Riesenburgh, and I gotta say, if he were alive today and if I were stinking rich, I’d commission a desk like this for myself.

The collection also featured the coolest little reading desk. It’s no bigger than a T.V. tray table, but don’t let it’s size fool you. The French, it seemed, weren’t the only ones all about the hidden function and design of a piece of furniture.

It seems like a normal little end table, does it not?

This little over six-foot reading stand was designed by Abraham Roentgen, a German designer, in 1760. While this reading stand seems to be a straightforward stand, it folds out to be something quiet remarkable.

Well now. That looks completely different.

This little reading stand changes position so the reader can rest their book upright, and it has a side table that pops out to allow the reader to rest their arm or, possible, MORE books to read. I would say the only downside of this table is the use of ivory in its design.

The Getty also featured a lot of really cool writing accessories, like inkstands.

This inkstand even came with built-in candlelight.

This piece is really a multicultural collaboration, with Chinese porcelain from 1700 making up the pots and the mounting, wood, and bronze coming from France in 1750.

All in all, this is just a small sampling of the impressive desk and desk accessory collection featured at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Just to plug the museum here, it is free to go, although it does cost $15 dollars for parking.

It’s money well spent, in my opinion, though.

Amanda Riggle
Rarely use

Amanda Riggle

Managing Editor at The Poetics Project
Amanda is the Managing Editor at The Poetics Project and of The Socialist, the national magazine of The Socialist Party USA, as well as the Lead Editor of Pomona Valley Review's upcoming 11th issue. She graduated with a BA in English Education and a minor in Political Science. She is currently enrolled in an English MA program with an emphasis in Literature. During her free time, Amanda enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling, crocheting, watching entire seasons of campy shows on Netflix, and, of course, writing blogs.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.

Amanda Riggle
Rarely use

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