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 Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens

The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

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Rolltop Desk by David Roentgen: Demonstration

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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).

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David Roentgen: Apollo Clock

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Abraham and David Roentgen were renowned German cabinetmakers whose workshop was famed throughout Europe for its exquisite marquetry work and complex mechanical devices. Lavishly embellished and expertly crafted, the Apollo clock is one of the best-known pieces of Roentgen furniture.

This clock, from Roentgen-Museum, Neuwied, is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013).

Extravagant Inventions

The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens

October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013

Accompanied by a catalogue and an Audio Guide

The meteoric rise of the workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711–1793) and his son David (1743–1807) blazed across eighteenth-century continental Europe. This landmark exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the cabinetmaking firm from around 1742 to its closing in the early 1800s. Its innovative designs were combined with intriguing mechanical devices to revolutionize traditional French and English furniture types. From its base in Germany the workshop employed novel marketing and production techniques to serve an international clientele. Some sixty to sixty-five pieces of furniture and clocks—several of which have never before been lent for exhibition—are complemented by paintings and prints that depict these unrivaled masterpieces in contemporary interiors. The most complicated mechanical devices are illustrated through virtual animations. Working drawings, portraits of the cabinetmakers, their family, and important patrons, as well as a series of documents owned by the Metropolitan Museum and originating from the Roentgen estate, underline the long-overlooked significance and legacy of the Roentgens as Europe's principal cabinetmakers of the ancien régime.

The David Roentgen Papers

The David Roentgen Papers (1773–1820) are housed in the Thomas J. Watson Library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection includes family correspondence, chiefly from David Roentgen to his son and brother, as well as official documents, including letters addressed to Roentgen from King Frederick William II of Prussia or his agents, and a receipt for payment of furniture made for Empress Catherine II of Russia. Also among the papers is the autopsy report on David Roentgen, completed by Dr. M. G. Thilenius in 1807. Several of these original documents are presented in the exhibition.

Browse the digitized collection.