The Devil is in the Details
Inlay Designs by Harvey Ellis
This early writing desk features intricate inlays of both wood and metal, manufactured by Gustav Stickley’s marquetry supplier, George H. Jones. Author Kevin Tucker discusses the inlay designs in depth in Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement. The trident-like elongated floral motifs are evidently influenced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, as seen on his linen press in the collection of National Museums Liverpool. Mackintosh, with his unique and innovative designs, paved the way of the Arts & Crafts design movement in the late 19th century. As such, many American Arts & Crafts makers often used derivative or similar themes and motifs based on Mackintosh’s works.
Interwoven with the pewter inlays are fruitwood roundels of a sailing Viking ship. Harvey Ellis and his associate Claude Bradgon utilized various Viking ship motifs in their works. Leading into the early 20th century, there had been a renewed interest and fascination surrounding Norse cultures in the United Kingdom, partly due to the frequent excavations of Viking ships that were happening in the nearby seas. Subsequently, this trend reached America across the Atlantic and Viking motifs were widely incorporated in the decorative art designs of the period.