David Roentgen (German, 1743–1807)
Oak, pine, walnut, mahogany, and cherry, veneered with hornbeam (partially stained), tulipwood, walnut, holly and maple (both partially stained), boxwood, mahogany, and other woods; red brocatelle marble; gilt bronze, iron, steel, and brass; 35 1/4 x 53 1/2 x 27 1/4 in. (89.5 x 135.9 x 69.2 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.81)
This commode by David Roentgen is related to one from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and to another in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. All have illustrious provenances, perhaps beginning in the Versailles royal apartments. The Metropolitan’s piece belonged to Baron Mayer de Rothschild and was bought by Mrs. Linsky in 1964 in London for what was then the highest price ever paid for furniture at auction. The other two may have formed a pair in the collection of the grand duke of Sachsen-Weimar. Surprisingly, the stages on the side doors of the Metropolitan’s commode are empty; on the other examples, spectators in theater boxes watch the performance on the central door. Inside, the upper drawers swing sideways to access hidden compartments with secret drawers. The top of the front compartment is covered with a tambour of colored stripes, giving access to a well. The central scenes feature characters from the commedia dell’arte, popular in the eighteenth century: Harlequin (at right), his sweetheart Columbine with a flower-decorated straw hat, and the aged Anselmo with a walking stick. One detail that helps date the three commodes is the style of the chair on which the dog rests: Rococo, with curved cabriole legs, on the Metropolitan’s example; and a later Neoclassical chair, with straight legs, on the London and Munich pieces. The back of the commode is branded twice with a double V beneath a crown—the inventory mark of Versailles. Although the back may be a replacement, the commode could come from the private apartments of Louis XVI. It may have been a victim of the French Revolution: the empty side doors (later replacements) are duplicates rather than mirror images—a solution unthinkable for the Roentgen workshop. Two marquetry panels now in Paris showing the same theatergoers as on the London and Munich doors may have decorated the Metropolitan’s commode.