The pure neoclassical form, finely-figured mahogany ground, and high-quality but sparing ormolu mounts of this small writing-table together with the contrasting distinctive floral marquetry ‘à la Mosaique’ are indicative of the vocabulary employed by the celebrated Neuwied ébéniste, David Roentgen (d. 1807) (see J.M. Greber, Abraham und David Roentgen, Möbel für Europa, Starnberg, 1980, pp. 109-189 and; D. Fabian, Abraham und David Roentgen, Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied, Neustadt/Saale, 1996, pp. 9-17).
The trompe l'oeil ‘à la Mosaique’ technique developed by the Roentgen Fabrik between circa 1766 and 1768 comprised 'pictures in wood', painterly marquetry panels assembled from minute pieces of wood cut with incredible precision by the Neuwied Intarsiatoren. Floral arrangements undoubtedly inspired by Jean Pillement’s designs, published in Robert Sayer’s ‘The Ladies Amusement or whole Art of Japanning made easy’, 1760, were one of Roentgen’s favourite patterns of this period. The current example is closely related to a writing-table from the Jacques Doucet collection (sold Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 7-8 June 1912, lot 335), and to an oval writing table with chinoiserie marquetry in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; both of these examples additionally have very similar drawer arrangements (R. Baarsen, German furniture, Amsterdam, 1998, p. 74). Furthermore, the pictorial motif of flowers and ribbons encircling an arrow on the present writing-table top is found on other Roentgen furniture including a bureau-cylinder desk also from the Docuet collection, and a secrétaire, both in the Kungstgewerbemuseum, Berlin (museum nos. W-1989,40; 1920,94; illustrated A. Stiegel, Präzision und Hingabe : Möbelkunst von Abraham und David Roentgen, Berlin, p. 72, no. 6; p. 148, no. 25).
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Roentgen officially took control of his father, Abraham’s workshop in 1772, and under his leadership it developed into a truly pan-European enterprise (D. Fabian, op. cit., pp. 13-14). Roentgen first visited Paris in 1774 to familiarise himself with the latest novelties. In 1779 he made a second visit, and this time took a number of his best pieces with him, giving him instant recognition in Royal circles. King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and other members of the Royal family made important acquisitions, and eventually conferred upon Roentgen in the 1780s, the courtesy title 'ébéniste mécanicien du Roi et de la Reine'. By 1780 he was a member of the Paris cabinetmaker's guild, enabling him to sell his furniture without any obstruction in Paris (C. Baulez, 'David Roentgen et François Rémond, une collaboration majeure dans l'histoire du mobilier europeen', L'Objet d'Art/L'Estampille, 305, 1996, pp. 99-101). As a maître-ébéniste, Roentgen was officially obliged to stamp the pieces he intended to sell in Paris, but he rarely complied with this rule. In the later 1770s he had also provided fifteen pieces of furniture to Prince Charles of Lorraine, an uncle of Marie-Antoinette and Governor of the Low Countries at Brussels. And, in addition to supplying many of the principalities of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also appointed Frederick William II's 'Fournisseur Ordinaire de la Cour de Prusse'. Roentgen's later success was in Russia and he visited the Imperial Court at St. Petersburg probably as many as six times between 1783 and 1791, and produced many of his finest pieces for Empress Catherine the Great.