The quality of construction and the distinctive assembly with removable legs and top of these tables exemplify the vocabulary employed by David Roentgen in the late 18th Century. In contrast with his earlier pieces, these pieces are extremely simple, almost severe in design with planes of figured woods in combination with high-quality but minimal ormolu mounts.
For twenty years, beginning in 1742, the Roentgen workshop in Neuwied had been producing furniture in the rococo style, mainly for the local German princely courts, and had become well-known for their extremely high quality marquetry work. In 1772, legal ownership was transfered from Abraham (1711-1793) to his son David (1743-1807), who began an ambitious campaign to expand the family business abroad. Roentgen traveled to Paris in 1774 to present a desk to Queen Marie-Antoinette (now in the Marjorie Merriweather Post Collection, Hillwood Museum). Begun in 1770, the desk with its rococo elements would have been considered slightly old-fashioned by the time it reached the French court four years later. This would have been immediately clear to Roentgen, who although already incorporating the first neo-classical elements to his oeuvre in 1762, was only truly exposed to this new movement when he received the drawings by F.W. von Erdmansdorff for Leopold III's Schloss Wörlitz in 1771. He then spent his time in Paris studying the nascent neoclassical style and by the late 1770s his furniture shows him to have adopted this new style entirely.
In 1779, David returned to Paris and his success was immediate. Both Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, the King's brother the Comte d'Artois, and Catherine the Great's Parisian representative Baron Grimm all ordered furniture. When David started selling furniture, however, he did have problems with the rigid Parisian guild restrictions, of which he was not a member. In Neuwied, both Abraham and David Roentgen had long avoided the local guilds. His application to sell furniture directly to his French patrons was refused and in May 1780, at considerable expense, he was forced to join the guild. This obligated him to stamp his furniture D. ROENTGEN and after submitting it to the guild for inspection, they were supposed to add their own JME stamp of approval. It appears he may have circumvented these controls because, excepting for extremely few known examples virtually most of his pieces are unstamped. His success only met with an abrupt end when the political situation in Europe changed with the French Revolution in the late 1780s. He was forced to close the workshop in 1793, although he is recorded continuing selling his stock until 1801.
By the mid-1780s he supplied large groups of furniture to Empress Catherine II and an invoice handwritten by David Roentgen that lists 50 lines of furniture in 1786 includes small tables similar to the offered lot described as line 45: deux petites tables quarres en bois Jaune avec des balustrades chaque Pièce 75m 27. It is believed that bois Jaune denotes birchwood. A very similar table is illustrated in H. Huth, Roentgen Furniture, Abraham and David Roentgen: European Cabinet-makers, London, 1974, ill. 155.