Based on photographic and documentary evidence, this desk was among the furnishings in the library of the 579 Fifth Avenue residence of Jay Gould (1836-1892). An early interior photograph of the Gould library shows his daughter, Helen Gould Shepard, seated in an armchair next to a desk with the same distinctive bronze relief panel showing a figure with arm raised and a horse with its head bowed. The other side of the desk is shown in another period photograph of Gould's library, illustrated in Agnes Rogers, Women Are Here To Stay (Harper Brothers, New York). Furthermore, when this desk was purchased at a small "fire-sale" in northern Virginia many years ago, the drawer contained newspaper clippings relating to the Gould family affairs of 1908. These clippings, and a copy of the photograph of the library from the Lyndhurst Archive, will accompany the lot. The contents of the Gould estate were sold at auction in 1942 by Kende Brothers, and the desk offered here likely appears as lot 294, a "Carved and Inlaid Ebonized Wood Library Table." The catalog notes the "two drawer frieze with pull-out slide at each end," "baluster supports at each end connected by a carved stretcher," and a "frieze inlaid with leaf design in holly."
This desk is consistent in construction and design with a number of documented furnishings made by Herter Brothers. In the late 19th century, Gould and his daughter, Helen, and his son, Frank, were among the most prominent patrons of the firm. It supplied them with a number of furnishings including two full bedroom suites, a desk, bookcase, piano chair, and a cabinet (see Howe, et al., Herter Brothers (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1994) pp. 84, 120, 197, 215, 217, and 234. Gould acquired a desk and several other Herter Brothers furnishings in 1882, the year that he purchased the 579 Fifth Avenue residence. The desk, for which he paid $550, is now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see ibid., cat. no. 35).