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A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU

BY DAVID ROENTGEN, NEUWIED, CIRCA 1776-1779, THE MOUNTS ATTRIBUTED TO FRANÇOIS REMOND, SIGNED 'DR' ON THE CENTRE DRAWER

Details
A GERMAN ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BRASS-INLAID AMBOYNA, TULIPWOOD, STAINED SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY MECHANICAL CYLINDER BUREAU
BY DAVID ROENTGEN, NEUWIED, CIRCA 1776-1779, THE MOUNTS ATTRIBUTED TO FRANÇOIS REMOND, SIGNED 'DR' ON THE CENTRE DRAWER
The rectangular top with pierced foliate-cast gallery, chased on the front and reverse, and with paneled plinth angles, above a long cherry-lined frieze drawer with three cut-corner panels set with floral rosettes and flanked by fluted pilasters, above a solid cylinder inlaid with Chinoiserie scenes depicting a group of fishing figures to the centre, flanked by a mother and a child to the left and a man with a lantern to the right, above a gilt-tooled green leather-lined writing-surface pulling forward to enclose a fitted architectural interior with pigeon-holes and three cedar-lined drawers above three simulated drawers, divided with mille raie panels, above a cherry-lined kneehole drawer inlaid with fishing equipment and with fragmentory signature 'DR' beneath the key hole, flanked on each side by panels, one depicting a lady buying from a young peasant, the other with a fisherman and a boy weighing his catch, hinged and fitted with a secret sprung mechanism concealing four further drawers simulated as six drawers and a well with a tambour shutter each, the sides inlaid with parrots resting on ribbon-swags above filled fruit baskets, on square tapering threaded and removable legs headed by floral patterae and with trailing husks, terminating in block feet, the locking mechanism operating in two phases, firstly opening the cylinder and central drawer and secondly opening the secret drawers to either side
50¾ in. (129 cm.) high; 45½ in. (115.5 cm.) wide; 26¼ in. (66.5 cm.) deep
Provenance
Sold Christian Delorme, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 6 June 1984, lot 62.
With Neidhardt, Munich, circa 1985.
Christie's, London, 7 July 2005, lot 400, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
D. Fabian, Roentgenmöbel aus Neuwied, Bad Neustadt, 1986, pp. 118-119.
P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1989, p. 721, ill. E.
D. Fabian, Abraham und David Roentgen: Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel- und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied, Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1996, no. 227.
W. Koeppe, Extravant Inventions: The princely furniture of the Roentgens, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 122, fig. 69.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

Decorated with enchanting Chinoiserie scenes in Roentgen's trademark marquetry à la mosaïque and mounted with jewel-like ormolu mounts this splendid roll-top desk is a superb example of Roentgen's work at the height of his career. The elegant form, inspired by Parisian models of the new Louis XVI style, serves as the perfect vehicle for the display of the splendid marquetry for which Roentgen was rightly celebrated across Europe, and is highlighted and framed by the exquisite mounts, which were almost certainly supplied by the Parisian maître-doreur François Rémond, underlining the international standing of this magnificent piece. This bureau is a demonstration of European ébénisterie at the highest possible level and the inlaid monogram 'DR', beneath the keyhole, indicates that Roentgen himself must have considered this a work worthy of bearing his signature.


ROENTGEN'S CAREER IN THE 1770s

In 1772 David Roentgen took full command of the Neuwied cabinet-making workshop that had been set up by his father Abraham (1711-1793) in the 1740s and concentrated on expanding his business and conquering Europe in an unprecedented campaign. His first great international patron 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. Charles of Lorraine spurred Roentgen on with spectacular commissions, allowing his ambition to expand almost without bounds (R. Baarsen and L. de Ren, 'Ébénisterie at the court of Charles of Lorraine', in The Burlington Magazine 147 (2005), pp. 95-96, figs. 22-24). In 1774 Roentgen visited Paris to acquaint himself with the latest developments in the European capital of taste and fashion. It may have been Charles of Lorraine who procured for 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 de la Reine (H. Huth, Roentgen furniture, Abraham and David Roentgen: European Cabinet-Makers, London and New York, 1974, pp. 16-19). One of the pieces he sold to the Queen was a roll-top desk that is closely related to the present piece, though with a different superstructure. Marie-Antoinette presented it to Pope Pius IV Braschi and it is now in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin (Huth, op. cit., figs. 55-59; Fabian, op. cit., 1996, no. 231).

CHINOISERIE MARQUETRY À LA MOSAÏQUE

One of the chief glories of Roentgen's furniture of the 1770s is his unique marquetry à la mosaïque, whereby no pieces of wood were scorched in hot sand to achieve the effect of shading, and no engraving was employed, but the full design was executed as a mosaic of small pieces of wood, like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. Roentgen first mentions this technique in describing a bureau that was offered as the first prize in a lottery of the firm's furniture organized in Hamburg in 1768 and it is interesting to note that this desk was already decorated with Chinoiserie scenes. A slightly later bureau of circa 1771-72, an early form of roll-top desk made for the Margrave of Baden, demonstrates that by that time Roentgen had elaborated a highly sophisticated repertory of Chinoiserie scenes that he was to employ over and over again. They appear mainly to have been derived from engravings by the French artist Jean Pillement (1728-1803) as well as those of the Augsburg engraver Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756). After 1775, the Chinoiserie scenes become more precise and gain a recognizably neo-classical equilibrium, as demonstrated on the present desk.

ROENTGEN'S ROLLTOP DESKS

The splendid exhibition dedicated to the Roentgens presented at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2012 featured a wide range of cylinder bureaus from Neuwied. In fact nine of the sixty-nine main exhibits listed in the superb catalogue that accompanied the display were cylinder bureaus. Boasting provenances from across Europe, including the Dukes of Devonshire and the Landgraves and Grand Dukes of Hessen-Kassel, to Louis XVI and Catherine the Great, they are evidence of the high regard with which Roentgen's rolltop desks were seen and what an important part of his oeuvre they form. While only two of the bureaus exhibited feature similar Chinoiserie marquetry the composition on this roll-top already occurs on a number of desks of an earlier form, with cabriole legs, of which one was delivered to the Elector of Bavaria and another to the Elector of Saxony (Fabian, op. cit., 1996, nos. 217, 219 and 221; B. Langer and A. Herzog von Württemberg, Die Möbel der Residenz München, vol.II, Die deutschen Möbel des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts, Munich-New York, 1996, no. 67). These desks date from around 1773-1775. Several of the marquetry scenes employed on the present piece recur in almost exactly the same manner on the earlier-mentioned desk sold to Marie Antoinette in 1779, and are also nearly all repeated on the most closely related rolltop desk, which is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and which - like the present desk - bears the monogram 'DR' (W. Koeppe, Extravant inventions: The princely furniture of the Roentgens, New Haven and London, 2012, cat. 29, pp. 122-25 and Fabian, 1996, no. 230). A further Chinoiserie roll-top desk, with a larger superstructure and different scenes, is at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg; it was probably delivered as late as 1786 although probably made around 1780 (Fabian, op. cit., 1996, no. 232).

MOUNTS FROM PARIS

Immediately during his first visit to Paris in 1774, Roentgen must have been struck by the jewel-like quality of the best gilt-bronze furniture mounts produced there, a quality he realised he would never be able to match in his native country. He may have already met the maître-doreur François Rémond, from whom he certainly bought mounts in and after 1779, but perhaps from as early as 1774. Rémond's ledgers, which only survive from 1779 onwards, show that he regularly supplied Roentgen with extremely elaborate and costly sculptural mounts as well as with small, simple ornaments. A recurring item are poignées en draperies which must refer to the drapery handles found on the present desk and on many other pieces of furniture by Roentgen, including the elegant architect's table also featured in this sale (C. Baulez, 'David Roentgen et François Rémond, une collaboration majeure dans l'histoire du mobilier européen' in L'Objet d'art/l'Estampille 305 (September 1996), pp. 96-118).

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