Hillwood Mansion, French Drawing Room
Roentgen, Abraham; Roentgen, David
Wood marquetry, mother of pearl, gilt bronze, steel, leather, glass
H. 45 3/4 in., W. 42 in., D. 25 in.
Although made in what is now part of Germany, this cylinder desk can be inscribed within the French tradition of furniture making. Abraham Roentgen’s workshop in Neuwied on the Rhine was celebrated for the excellence of its marquetry work and the complexity of its mechanical devices. His son David absorbed the skills and style of his father and also proved to be a masterful entrepreneur. David traveled to many European courts to work on commissions. This desk is fitted with a full range of mechanical devices that open almost forty hidden compartments and secret drawers. Most of the literature on the Hillwood desk mentions that it was intended for Marie Antoinette. The cipher has been traditionally read as the initials MA, and the dolphin feet have been interpreted as an allusion to the Dauphine. This suggestion, although plausible, has not been verified. Another possibility is that it belonged to a German prince, or elector.
Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973
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