The meteoric rise of the workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711–1793) and his son David (1743–1807) blazed across eighteenth-century continental Europe. From about 1742 to its closing in the early 1800s, the Roentgens' innovative designs were combined with intriguing mechanical devices to revolutionize traditional French and English furniture types. Based in Neuwied am Rhein, Germany, the workshop employed novel marketing and production techniques to serve an international clientele.
This installation continues the mission of the 2012 exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, the first comprehensive survey of the cabinetmaking firm, which underlined the long-overlooked significance and legacy of the Roentgens as Europe's principal cabinetmakers of the ancien régime. Three significant loans from the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are on view alongside several other masterworks by the Roentgens from the Metropolitan Museum's collection. The Berlin loans include the famous "Berlin Secretary Cabinet," likely the most expensive piece of furniture in eighteenth-century Europe, which was made on speculation for King Frederick William II of Prussia and is traveling for the first time since its delivery to the king in 1779. Today a national treasure of Germany, the cabinet was celebrated in its time as an ingenious technical invention as well as a magnificent work of art. This multimedia installation also includes music and virtual animations illustrating the most complicated mechanical devices.
Accompanied by the catalogue Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens
The installation is made possible by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.
David Roentgen (German, 1743–1807). Berlin Secretary Cabinet, 1778–79, 1786. Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (O-1962,24). Photographer: Stefan Klonk, Berlin