Anyone who owned such a magnificent bureau must have been an important figure.
Or possibly someone who spent all day, every day sitting at his desk, and instead of speeches and regulations, preferred to write a diary, or poems and letters?
The first half of the 19th century was a time of restoration – in other words, an (often compulsory) return to the old social system. The middle classes resisted, but were frequently powerless, because the authorities responded with censorship and did away with the freedom of the press.
Given so much external pressure, dutiful members of the middle class retreated into private life – into the protective sphere of their homes. The family became the centre of attention, while preserving and increasing one’s wealth became more important. This was the Biedermeier period, and the middle classes of the 1820s, ‘30s and ‘40s set about furnishing their homes: with high quality pieces that conveyed a cosy atmosphere, with family portraits on the walls, with needlework, nice clothes, a well-filled book case and – of course – a desk. This one – can you imagine?! – even has a secret compartment. Where, oh where could it be? Well – we’re not telling you!
Every desk needs to be equipped with writing materials, because this was the age of letter-writing. If you look in the drawers of the display case on the right, you’ll find some especially handsome examples of this letter-writing culture: letters from friends and godparents, bundles of commemorative documents, and poems conveying poignant vows to be faithful.
See if you can find the letter from a friend with a heart braided from hair in one of the drawers.
In the glass case above that, there’s a pair of little china busts looking rather grumpy. They’re also associated with the Biedermeier fashion for letter-writing. That’s because important writing materials are tucked away inside the two old folk! You just need to lift the cap or the bonnet, and lo and behold, a supply of ink and sand (for blotting).
The items behind the elderly pair in their Biedermeier style outfits are part of an ornate set of tableware. It allowed the people of Saxony to indulge in a habit that was a secret passion even then – just as it is now – having a nice cup of coffee!
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen