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The inventive talents of David Roentgen are evident in this exceptionally refined desk. The monogram "DR" inlaid beneath the keyhole on the lower drawer indicates the cabinetmaker's satisfaction with one of his most mechanically ingenuous creations: a single key inserted at different depths unlocks the center drawer, releases the rolltop, or releases the hidden side drawers; if a button is pressed on the underside of these drawers, each swings aside to reveal three other drawers. Above the rolltop, the rectangular structure consists of a single wide drawer. The artist's creativity is evident in the chinoiserie marquetry scenes, created by using minute pieces of naturally colored exotic woods that have a painterly effect.
See Collections to learn more about this desk.
This desk is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013).
David Roentgen: Long-Case Clock
The Roentgens' Berlin Secretary Cabinet
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Rolltop Desk by David Roentgen: Demonstration
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Rolltop Desk by David Roentgen: Animation
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Commode à vantaux
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This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 553
The case recalls prototypes published in Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director. Below the main clock dial are the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon. The ring of auxiliary dials indicates the most important cities of the day (clockwise): Philadelphia. / Mexico/ Peking. / Hispahan. / Cas=Bon=Spei. [Constantinople] / Cairo. / Rom. / Lisabon/ / Londen. / St. Petersburg. Philadelphia, where the declaration of Independence would be adopted on July 4, 1776, was known worldwide for its importance as a harbor and trading center. The clock could be the one that Charles Alexander of Lorraine returned to Roentgen as partial payment for the Brussels secretary cabinet in 1776. Inside were a miniature organ and a dulcimer (now lost).A recording of the music from a similar clock (collection of Count zu Eltz), featuring compositions by Christoph Willibald Gluck, will play in the gallery once an hour.
Signature: Achenbach & Schmidt à Neuwied (on zodiac dial); REUSCH (marquetry signed on front of pendulum case)Inscription: Dials inscribed: PHILADELPHIA, MEXICO, PEKING, HISPAHAN, CAS-BON-SPEI, CAIRO, ROM, LISABON, LONDEN, ST. PETERSBURG
probably made for Duke Charles Alexander of Lorraine and delivered to Brussels before 1776 ; taken back in August 1776 by David Roentgen in partial payment for a secretary cabinet ; possibly the landgraves of Hessen-Kassel ; acquired by Edgar Worch from the Hessen family after WWI ; his wife, Mrs. Edgar Worch (until 1975; to MMA)
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