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A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED SYCAMORE AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY TABLE-A-ECRIRE
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED SYCAMORE AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY TABLE-A-ECRIRE

BY DAVID ROENTGEN, CIRCA 1775-80

Details
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED SYCAMORE AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY TABLE-A-ECRIRE
BY DAVID ROENTGEN, CIRCA 1775-80
The oval top centred by ribbon-tied flowerheads within a lozenge pattern, above a conformingly-inlaid frieze fitted with a drawer enclosing a leather-lined writing-slide and four tulipwood lined drawers, flanked by a pair of swivelling drawers, each enclosing a well and two small drawers, on square tapering legs headed by guttae mounts and terminating in later ormolu caps
29 1/4 in. (74.5 cm.) high; 28½ in. (73 cm.) wide; 20 in. (50.5 cm.) deep

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Celia Harvey
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Lot Essay

With its delicate floral marquetry and rigorously neoclassical lines, this elegant table demonstrates the technical prowess of the celebrated Neuwied furniture-maker David Roentgen (1743-1807). This table-à-écrire was executed circa 1775-1780, towards the end of the so-called vierte Entwicklungs or Arbeitsphase, as discussed by Joseph Maria Greber and Dietrich Fabian (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)
MARQUETRY 'A LA MOSAïQUE'

Between 1766 and 1768, the Roentgen fabrik developed a new type of marquetry, which is first mentioned in an advertisement for the Hamburg lottery of 1769. The first prize was described as 'Ein Bureau ... mit Chinuesischen Figuren, a la Mosaique eingelegt'. In contrast to traditional marquetry techniques, based on scorching and engraving for effects of shade and detail, which were masterfully practiced by Abraham Roentgen, the new technique created 'pictures in wood', painterly marquetry panels assembled from minute pieces of wood cut with incredible precision by the Neuwied Intarsiatoren (D. Fabian, op. cit., 1981, p. 8 and R. Baarsen, Duitse Meubelen, Zwolle, 1998, p. 74). Trompe l'oeil floral marquetry in the newly-developed à la Mosaique technique became one of the favourite patterns of the 1770s and early 80s and was employed to embellish almost all furniture-types produced in the Roentgen Werkstatt. Comparable to Camaieu painting on porcelain, relying on various shades and intensities of the same color, Roentgen's gardening trophies of deutsche Blumen included roses, tulips and bellflowers, suspended from ribbons or rings, or loosely wrapped around a distaff (R. Stratmann-Döhler, Mechanische Wunder Edles Holz, Roentgen-Möbel des 18. Jahrhunderts in Baden und Würtemberg, Karlsruhe, 1998, p. 48 and p. 96).

OVALE MEHRZWECKTISCHE
Roentgen executed several of these small oval multi-functional writing-tables or Mehrzwecktische, which were undoubtedly among the most popular items issuing from his workshop. They are similar in construction and often incorporate an ingenious mechanism which allows the spring-loaded hinged drawers to be opened by means of concealed release-buttons to the underside. They are embellished with various marquetry designs, but this example of trompe l'oeil marquetry decoration of Arcadian pastoral trophies around a foliate-entwined knife is certainly one of his most accomplished. It appears on a number of related tables, which are illustrated in D. Fabian, op.cit., 1996, pp. 47-49 and S. de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, Suttgart, 1938, p. 93.

INFLUENCES FROM FRANCE
Roentgen visited Paris in 1774 to familiarise himself with the latest nouveautés. In 1779 he embarked on a second visit, and this time took a number of his best pieces with him, which gave him instant recognition in Royal circles. Louis XVI and other members of the Royal family made important acquisitions and Roentgen received the courtesy title 'ébéniste-méchanicien de la Reine' from Queen Marie-Antoinette. The following year he succeeded in joining the Paris cabinet-makers' guild, which enabled 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 européen', L'Objet d'art/L'Estampille', 1996, pp. 99-101).

While Roentgen could outwit his French counterparts with his marquetry skills and ability to create intricate technical devices, he could not match the jewel-like quality of gilt-bronze mounts executed by French bronziers. During his second visit Roentgen came into contact with the ciseleur-doreur François Rémond (1747-1812), whose ledgers survive from 1779 until 1792 and list Roentgen's acquisitions on numerous accounts (C. Baulez, op. cit., 1996, pp. 109-118).

Two tables-à-écrire of the same model are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (illustrated in J. M. Greber, Abraham und David Roentgen: Møobel føur Europa, Starnberg, 1980, pp. 171-173, figs. 332-333; 337), whilst a virtually identical table, formerly in the collection of Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) and his son Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917), was sold at Christie's, London, 13 June 2002, lot 55 (£127,650 with premium). More recently, a table of the same model was sold from the collection of Daniel Carrasso, founder of the multinational corporation Danone, 'Succession Daniel Carasso', Piasa, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 19 March 2010, lot 67 (EUR 161,096 with premium).

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