Rolltop desk

David Roentgen German

Not on view

David Roentgen’s rolltop desks are perhaps the best-known style icons of his oeuvre. This one is likely the “small Cylinder-top writing desk of yellow wood costing 250 rubles, plus 90 [for transport and packing]” listed in an invoice dated March 23, 1786, and delivered to Empress Catherine II. The desk’s distinctive yellow color comes from the veneers of exotic hardwood, called yellowheart, or pau amarello (Euxylophora paraensis). When splashed with sunlight, the wood glows with an almost mystical radiance. The veneers are complemented by finely chased gilt-bronze mounts that may have been supplied by François Rémond from Paris. The top rolls up and disappears into the desk, exposing a central open compartment with two adjustable shelves. It is flanked on either side by a pigeonhole with stepped platforms that conceal spring-operated secret drawers. A leather-lined slide extends the space for writing; below it are three large drawers.

Rolltop desk, David Roentgen (German, Herrnhaag 1743–1807 Wiesbaden, master 1780), Oak, veneered with pau amarello (yellowheart) and mahogany; gilt bronze and copper, German, Neuwied am Rhein

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