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Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more GRAND DUCHESS ANNA FEODOROVNA'S WRITING-TABLE THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN


The double-hinged adjustable rectangular top within an ormolu surround above a frieze drawer decorated with mille raie and beaded banding, and mounted with drapery handles, enclosing a gilt-tooled green leather-lined writing slide and a mahogany-lined interior fitted with two sliding compartments revealing four secret drawers and a further drawer opening to the side fitted with an ink well and sander, the fluted angles headed by rosettes above detachable square tapering legs with mille raie panelling and terminating in block feet with brass caps, inked to the underside 'No 8', '9', and with inventory brand 'AF'
30 in. (77 cm.) high; 41 in. (104 cm.) wide; 26 in. (66 cm.) deep
Probably delivered to Ernst Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1724-1800), and by descent in Coburg to his grand-daughter, Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1781-1860), later Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia, or
delivered to Catherine II of Russia at St. Petersburg, circa 1784-88, and given to Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, later Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia, on her marriage to Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia (1779-1831) in 1796;
moved to Elfenau, Switzerland, circa 1814, at the time of the emigration of the Grand Duchess, and by descent to her son
Baron Edouard von Löwenfels (1808-1892), by whom sold, with the estate, in 1861 to
Bernhard von Wattenwyl-de Portes (1801-1881) and by descent, until sold privately to the present owner.
W. Koeppe, Extravagant Inventions, the Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, New Haven and London, 2012, cat. 44, pp. 160-62.
D. Fabian, Abraham und David Roentgen, Bad Neustadt, 1996, pp. 111 and 116, ills. 112 and 113-116.
D. Fabian, Roentgenmöbel aus Neuwied, Bad Neustadt, 1986, pp. 70-71.
J.M. Greber, Abraham und David Roentgen: Möbel für Europa, Starnberg, 1980, pp. 321-323, ills. 643-651.
H. Huth, Abraham und David Roentgen: European Cabinet-makers, London and New York, 1974, p. 33, ills. 146-148.
T. Bichsel, Grossfürstin Anna - Flucht vom Zarenhof in die Elfenau, Bern 2012.
Special notice

Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay


Born Princess Juliane Henriette Ulrike of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1781, she was the third daughter of Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Countess Augusta Caroline Reuss of Ebersdorf. In 1796, at the tender age of 15, Princess Juliane with her mother and two sisters followed the invitation of Catherine the Great to St Petersburg where she was chosen as the future bride of Catherine's second grand-son, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia (1779-1831), son of Tsesarevich Paul Petrovich and Maria Feodorovna, herself a German princess of Würtemberg. The young Anna Feodorovna was unhappy in the marriage and first separated from Constantine in 1799 and permanently in 1801, initially moving back to her native Coburg and later to the country Estate Elfenau, she had acquired near Berne in Switzerland. It was at this beautiful estate that the Russian Grand Duchess was host to many cultural, political and aristocratic guests until her death in 1860 and the estate with most of its art and furnishing was sold by her son, Baron Edouard von Löwenfels to the Swiss patrician Bernhard von Wattenwyl-de Portes.


In Coburg the young Princess probably first encountered the striking furniture of David Roentgen, with deliveries to both the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and her mother's family, the Princes of Reuss, well documented. Letters by David Roentgen and his wife Dorothea even report of a personal visit to Coburg in June/July 1797 mentioning both payment for past deliveries and the successful sale of further furniture to the Duke. By then though the young princess was already installed in St Petersburg, where she was surrounded by not only enormous quantities of but also some of the most sumptuous pieces of furniture to have come from Roentgen's workshops. The Empresses' fondness for Roentgen's furniture was such that an invoice for a shipment in 1786 documents the delivery of no less than nine tables of this type 'for writing while sitting and standing' (see D. Fabian's 1996 facsimile from the archives at St Petersburg, pp.365-66). Anna Feodorovna's husband, Grand Duke Constantine, as well as his older brother Grand Duke Alexander, had both already been presented with a child-sized version of such a table by their grandmother in 1784 (one of these was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum, see W. Koeppe, op. cit., cat. 43, pp. 158-9). It remains to be established whether the present table was originally delivered to St Petersburg and given to the young Princess on her arrival or her marriage to the young Grand Duke, or if it was part of a delivery to Coburg and part of the furnishings Anna Feodorovna was given by her family having fled St Petersburg. The marque au feux with the cypher 'AF', with which this table is marked, can also be found under another piece of furniture from the Grand Duchess' collection at Elfenau - an Empire commode by the Swiss cabinet-maker Christophe Hopfengärtner (now in the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. Nr. 38570), identifying it as an inventory brand from her time in Switzerland.


This superb architect's table is a perfect example of Roentgen's unrivalled craftsmanship, combining exacting quality of construction with the use of splendid veneers and finely chased gilt-bronze mounts. Born in Neuwied and son of the cabinet-maker Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793), David Roentgen (1743-1807) was one of the greatest ébénistes of his age. He joined his father's workshop in 1757 and officially took control in 1772. Under his leadership it developed into a truly pan-European enterprise and he expanded his business in an unprecedented campaign no other 18th century furniture-maker could ever match. He developed extreme sophistication of woodwork, mechanism, and design and coupled this with a sound instinct for business. One of his first great international patrons was Charles, Duke of Lorraine (1712-1780), Governor of the Austrian Netherlands, brother of the Emperor Francis I who was married to Maria Theresia, and uncle of, among many other Princes and Princesses, Queen Marie-Antoinette. In 1774 Roentgen visited Paris to get acquainted with the new neoclassical style, the latest development in the European capital of taste and fashion and by the late 1770s his furniture shows him to have adopted this new style entirely. It may have been Charles of Lorraine who procured him the highly coveted entry to the French court during his second visit to Paris, in 1779, when he sold several pieces of furniture both to King Louis XVI and to Marie-Antoinette who rewarded his efforts with the courtesy title of ébéniste-mécanicien du Roi et de la Reine. This title opened doors to all the other European courts and Roentgen soon supplied furniture to many of the most discriminating aristocrats throughout Europe, including King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, to whom he delivered a closely related architect's table (recorded in F.W. Klose's watercolour of Friedrich-Wilhelm's study, where it is placed with its top raised beneath Raphael's Sistine Madonna, ill. H. Huth, op. cit., 1974, pl. 147), as well as the Electors of Hessen and Saxony, the Dukes of Württemberg and the Margraves of Baden. We have already mentioned Roentgen's large deliveries to Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg which included nine such tables, two of which are now at the Palace Museum, Pavlovsk (ill. J.M. Greber, op.cit., 1980, vol. II, ills. 643-645 and D. Fabian, op. cit., 1996, cat. 91 and 95, pp. 59-60). An interesting 18th century documentation of the high regard with which Roentgen's tables were seen even in Paris can be found in the family portrait of Edouard Colbert de Maulévrier, plenipotentiary to the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne - de Maulévrier's elegant family portrait is centred by a table exactly like the one offered here. This type of table proved so popular that an engraving after Roentgen's original drawing was illustrated in a 1795 edition of the 'Journal des Luxus und der Moden', probably Germany's first fashion magazine, which was published in Weimar (see J.M. Greber, op. cit., vol. I, p. 261).

Examples of this model that have appeared at auction include one that was sold in May 1931 from the Stroganoff collections, now in the C.H. David Collection, Copenhagen; one from the Grand Dukes of Oldenburg, sold at Schloss Anholt, Christie's, 20-21 November 2001, lot 572 (DM 614,800), as well as one sold from the property of a Belgian Nobleman, Christie's, London, 5 July 2007, lot 257 (£132,000).

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