This rare and beautifully made desk chair can be attributed to the famous cabinet-maker from Neuwied, David Roentgen, on the basis of its design and because of the splendid quality of the timbers used, the fine gilt-bronze mounts and the immaculate construction. Only one comparable chair is known, in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth (Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth, guidebook, 1984, pp. 6-7, illustrated in the State Drawing-Room). There, it is now associated with a roll-top desk by Roentgen of similar date, but it is not known whether the two pieces were purchased together. David Roentgen's roll-top desks were certainly not as a rule accompanied by matching chairs, as is evidenced for example by the unmatched series of desks delivered to Catherine the Great and now at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, with which no single chair is preserved.
The elegant, architectural design is relieved only by simple mounts, of a type often employed by Roentgen: bands of mille-raies and triple fluting. The back is unadorned, allowing the beautifully figured mahogany to be fully appreciated. Naturally, when the chair stands in front of a desk, this is the most readily visible part. The chair at Chatsworth is even more sparsely mounted, the mille-raies there being restricted to the legs.
The Roentgen cabinet-making workshop, set up in the 1740s by David's father Abraham (1711-1793) and finally taken over by his son in 1772, had, from its early years, occasionally produced chairs, sometimes as part of a particularly distinguished commission. Thus, in the mid-1760s, Abraham Roentgen made two marquetry chairs for his foremost client at the time, Johann Philipp von Walderdorff, Archbishop and Elector of Trier, one of which was perhaps intended to accompany the splendid desk now at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (D. Fabian, Abraham und David Roentgen, Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel- und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied, Bad Neustadt Saale, 1996, nos. 490-491. Roentgen's first fully neo-classical commission, a set of marquetry furniture delivered in 1771 to Fürst Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau at Wörlitz, likewise included a series of chairs (ibid., nos. 503-506). Curiously, from the 1780s, when mahogany dominated the production of veneered furniture, very few Roentgen chairs are known, although in an advertisement for the firm's shop in Paris in 1781 fauteuils de cabinet are actually specially mentioned as forming part of their stock (ibid., p. 358, source no. 2.198). Apart from the present desk chair and its related one at Chatsworth, only one open-backed type is associated with the Roentgen workshop, although this is now actually attributed to Roentgen's associate in Paris, Johann Gottlieb Frost (d. 1814). An example was sold at Christie's, London, 12 December 1996, lot 212.
Henry Myron Blackmer II was a successful stockbroker who lived successively in Switzerland, Paris and lastly Athens. His extraordinary collection reflected his deep love of Classical Antiquity and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Several of pieces from his collection were sold by Christopher Gibbs, Esq., The Manor House, Clifton Hampden, Christie's house sale; 25-26 September 2000, lots 47, 138, 184, 203, 214 and 345.