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Design, Furniture, Biedermeier Writing Desks, Wilhelm Kimbel, Antique Watercolor Pair, 1835-42 (Sold)

Wilhelm Kimbel (1768-1869)
Pair of Biedermeier Writing Desk Designs
German: c. 1835-1842
Pen and ink and watercolor
Vertical design signed lower left: “W. Kimbel fecit”
Horizontal design signed lower left: “Wlh. Kimbel del.”
14.5 x 11.5 inches (vertical design)
11.5 x 14.75 inches (horizontal design)
Provenance: James R. Lamantia, Jr.

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Pair of original designs for elaborately constructed wood writing desks or secretaries in the Biedermeier style by the German furniture maker and designer Wilhelm Kimbel. The designs, one vertical and one horizontal, feature clever arrangements of shelves, drawers, cubbyholes and fold-out writing surfaces. They are decorated with curving scrollwork and marquetry. The vertical desk also incorporates a clock at the top and neoclassical columns. Both paintings are surrounded by ruled pen-and-ink borders and have descriptions written in ink in the lower margin, apparently in Kimbel’s hand.

Product description continues below.


These two original drawings may have been published as lithographs, since they are similar to other lithographic designs by Kimbel that appeared in a journal for cabinetmakers published in Mainz between 1835 and 1842. This possibility is also suggested by the fact that Kimbel signed his name with the Latin terms “fecit” (made by) and “del.” (abbreviation for “delineavit” or drawn by), terms that are generally associated with original designs for prints.

The term Biedermeier refers to a style that arose in German-speaking countries in the first half of the 19th century, specifically between 1814 and 1849. This was a period of political reform in which the middle class asserted itself against the authority of the aristocracy. The style was characterized by classical motifs such as columns, lyres, paw feet and other features carried forward from the neoclassical Louis XVI and Empire styles. Wood veneers — often mahogany or blond birch — were arranged with the grain matched to create symmetrical surface designs, sometimes highlighted by ebonized moldings. Biedermeier style has periodically been revived from the late 19th century to present.

Wilhelm Kimbel was a German furniture designer and cabinetmaker, an influential figure in the development of the Biedermeier style. He worked in Mainz, which was a center of furniture production in the German Southwest. Kimbel published his original designs as lithographs in the Journal für Möbelschreiner und Tapezierer [Journal for Cabinetmakers and Upholsterers] issued in Mainz between 1835 and 1842. Wilhelm Kimbel is sometimes confused in the scholarly literature with a later Wilhelm Kimbel (1868-1965), possibly one of his descendants. The latter, who was born after the publication years of Journal für Möbelschreiner, was an architect, painter and craftsman, known especially for his interior designs for major buildings in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Provenance: James Lamantia, Jr. (1923-2011). At the time of his death, Lamantia was Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was also a practicing architect, and an artist.


Cullison, William R. III, and Lamantia, James. An Eye for Architecture: Architectural and Decorative Drawings from the Collection of James Lamantia.  New Orleans: Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Library, September 16 to October 31, 1984. Item 26B, pp. 28-29.

Leichter, Heinrich. “The True Biedermeier.” Ritter Antik. (15 October 2012).

“Sale: 397 / Rare Books, Nov. 19./20. 2012.” Ketterer Kunst. (12 October 2012).

Schwabe, Konrad. “Wilhelm Kimbel.” Lexikon: Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf von A bis Z. (2 October 2012).

Additional information


19th Century