With its exquisite brass-inlaid mounts and skilled use of verre églomisé, this splendid bureau-plat can be attributed to Heinrich Gambs (1765-1831). Little Russian furniture of this period is signed, therefore the lack of a signature on this desk is not unusual. In addition, Gambs is not believed to have signed any of his work, and attributions rely therefore on the recurrence of verre églomisé plaques and bronze decoration.
This bureau-plat is of a more restrained quality than Gambs other known examples. The use of blue verre églomisé plaques in the piece can be seen on two other pieces, one of which is firmly attributed to Gambs. The first, a virtuoso cylinder-top-desk in the Hillwood Museum in Washington DC is illustrated in A. Cheneviére, Russian Furniture; The Golden Age 1780-1840, New York, 1988, p. 98, fig. 79. The second, a very closely related bureau-plat with virtually identical brass-inlay and geometric glass panels is at Tsarskoe Selo where Gambs is known to have delivered several pieces, (illustrated in I. Sautov, Tsarkoe Selo, Paris, 1992, p. 48, fig. 17.).
In Russia, this style of furniture is known as the "Jacob Style" (stil' zhakob) in reference to the celebrated French chair maker Georges Jacob who was the first to manufacture mahogany chairs. The style, however, has few technical or stylistic similarities with Jacob. What defines Russian Jacob furniture is the use of mahogany (or mahogany veneer) and brass strips or rosettes.
Gambs began his career in his native Germany under David Roentgen, later moving to Russia where by 1793, he became a leading figure amongst the cabinet makers of St. Petersburg. Gambs was principally employed in supplying the Imperial residences, including Pavlovsk, Tsarkoe Selo and the Winter Palace. By the end of the 18th Century, Empress Maria Feodorovna was one of his most important clients. Gambs had one section of his workshop devoted solely to the casting and gilding of bronze, distinguishing him from many of his contemporaries. These exacting standards can be seen in the mounts of the current table.