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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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David Roentgen's Automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette, The Dulcimer Player (La Joueuse de Tympanon)

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Watch this surprising video of an automaton play the dulcimer.

David Roentgen (1743–1807) took his royal patron by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton to King Louis XVI for his queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1784. The cabinetry for this piece is very much a neoclassical masterwork, and the mechanism behind it is truly extraordinary: the figure strikes the strings in perfect rhythm with two small metal hammers held in her hands, which move with great precision.

This object, from the Musée des arts et métiers de Paris, is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013).

See the full video: http://www.cerimes.fr/le-catalogue/la-joueuse-de-tympanon.html

Footage courtesy of CERIMES.

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David Roentgen: Long-Case 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. Exquisitely constructed, the case of this clock boasts finely detailed marquetry designs and a multitude of functions, including dials that indicate the time in ten of the most important cities in the world.

This clock is featured in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (on view October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013). See Collections to learn more about this clock.

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.