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.
David's father Abraham (1711-1793), who had been apprentice in The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and London, founded the Roentgen workshops in 1742 in Herrnhaag, Wetterau. His earliest known pieces are of pure English design and workmanship and Abraham even referred to himself as Englischer Kabinettmacher in an advertisement for the Frankfurter Messe of 1754. His reputation grew rapidly, and soon after his move to neighbouring Neuwied in 1750, he supplied furniture to a number of illustrious clients, including his protector, Fürst Alexander zu Wied (1738-1791) and the Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Johann Philipp von Walderdorff (1701-1768). Abraham introduced this type of Pultschreibtisch with raising top in the 1760's and examples with cabriole legs survive in Schloss Pommersfelden and the collections of the Legion of Honour Museum in San Francisco.
His son David (1743-1807) joined the workshop as a Schreinergeselle in 1757, and officially took control of the workshop in 1772. Under his leadership it developed into a truly pan-European enterprise and, as part of this campaign, David travelled to Paris in 1774 to present a desk to Marie-Antoinette. He also spent time in Paris studying the new neo-classical style and by the late 1770s his furniture shows him to have adopted this new style entirely. Roentgen soon supplied not only many of the most discriminating aristocrats throughout Europe but also the French, Prussian and Russian courts and his 1784 delivery to Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg included a superb table virtually identical to the present example, now at the Palace Museum, Pavlovsk (illustrated J.M. Greber, Abraham und David Roentgen: Möbel für Europa, Starnberg, 1980, vol. II, ills. 643-645). Further examples of this model that have since appeared at auction include one from the Grand Dukes of Oldenburg (sold at Schloss Anholt, Christie's, 20-21 November 2001, lot 572) and one that was sold in May 1931 from the Stroganoff collections, now in the C.H. David Collection, Copenhagen.
Roentgen also supplied such a Pultschreibtisch to the Prussian court and it was recorded in F.W. Klose's watercolour of King Friedrich-Wilhelm's study, where it can bee seen with its top raised and placed against a wall right underneath Raphael's Sistine Madonna (see H. Huth, Roentgen Furniture, London, 1974, pl. 147).
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).