The French-fashioned desk or bonheur du jour is stamped by the Bond Street firm of Messrs. Johnstone, Norman, and Co., 'Artistic Furniture Manufacturers' and 'Cabinet-makers and Upholsterers' to Queen Victoria. Amongst this firm's most celebrated manufactures was the piano executed in the mid 1880s for the connoisseur Henry Gurdon Marquand's Madyson Avenue apartment to the designs of Lawrence Alma-Tadema and W.C.Codman (sold in these Rooms, 7 November 1997, lot 86). Mr Codman's artistic designs for their 'Louis Seize' furniture, supplied for both London and New York, was noted in a magazine article discussing the firm's work in a London house, which had been furnished around 1880 and hung with 'specially designed Aubusson tapestry, with subjects after Watteau, Boucher and other artists'. (anon, Modern Artistic Furniture, 'Decoration', July 1884).
It would appear that this desk was given as a Christmas present in 1892 to Mamie Ralli, daughter of Sir Lucas Ralli (1846-1931) (Head of the Ralli family Merchant Trading Company) and Eugenia 'Jenny' Argenti (1854-1935).