Greber, J. M., Abraham und David Roentgen, Möbel für Europa, 1980, Volumes I & II;
Baulez, C., 'David Roentgen et François Rémond, une collaboration majeure dans l'histoire du mobilier européen', L'Objet d'art/l'Estampille, 305, September 1996, pp. 96-118;
Koppe, W., Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, New York, 2012, p. 167;
Vignon, C., & Baulez, C., Pierre Gouthière, Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, China, 2016, pp. 290-294;
Jacobsen, H., Gilded Interiors, Parisian Luxury & the Antique, Wales, 2017, p. 84, fig. 36.
Enriched with jewel-like gilt-bronze mounts, the present bureau à cylindre - or rolltop desk - has all the hallmarks of the celebrated German cabinet-maker David Roentgen working in collaboration with the foremost Parisian maître-doreur François Rémond.
David Roentgen (1743-1807)
David Roentgen was the most celebrated German cabinet-maker and certainly one of the most skilled ébénistes of the late 18th century. He trained in his father Abraham's workshop in Germany. Abraham was himself a fine cabinet-maker whose peripatetic training had taken him from Cologne to the Netherlands, London and Herrnhaag before settling in Neuwied at the invitation of the visionary Count Johann Friedrich Alexander zu Wied-Neuwied. An ambitious man, David was determined to expand the family business and set off for Paris, the epicentre of European cabinet-making. Roentgen took premises with the marchand-mercier Brebant in rue Saint-Martin, to whom he entrusted the sale of his furniture. Dogged by the politics of the guilds, it was not until he established his own enterprise in 1781 that the Roentgen workshop thrived. The wizardry of his mechanical furniture was greatly admired, and so was the virtuosity of its marquetry, which delighted patrons with beautifully executed pictorial scenes en camaïeu. Roentgen quickly established an international clientele including Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the Comte d'Artois, Catherine of Russia and Frederick the Great, benefiting greatly from the excess of the final years of the Ancien Régime.
During the last decade of the eighteenth century, bureaux à cylindre were among Roentgen’s most celebrated and sought-after creations and the form of the present example relates to a number of stamped pieces (see Sotheby’s Paris, 6 April 2011, lot 168). The construction throughout is of the highest quality, matched by the gilt-bronze ornament, and the attribution of the present bureau to Roentgen's workshop is bolstered by a number of constructional leitmotifs. The roll-top on this desk and others by David Roentgen is a large continuous sheet of mahogany veneer, allowing the wood’s natural figuring to be fully appreciated. For a related example supplied to the Duke of Devonshire and now at Chatsworth House, see Koeppe, W., op.cit., p. 167. The legs of the present desk are removable, which many consider a hallmark of Roentgen’s fully developed oeuvre, to which this lot can be assigned.
Mounts from Paris
The mounts on the offered desk are of superior quality and most likely came from the workshop of the famed Parisian bronzier François Rémond, who we know supplied mounts to Roentgen’s workshop after they met during his first visit to Paris in 1774. Roentgen must have been struck by the superlative quality of the gilt-bronze mounted furniture produced there, a quality he realised he would never be able to match in his native Neuwied. 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. (Baulez, C., op. cit., pp. 96-118).
Interestingly, the escutcheon mounts on the present bureau appear with some regularity on top quality French mahogany furniture of the 1780s and, more often than not, on pieces stamped by Roentgen’s German compatriot Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) (see a secrétaire à abattant sold Christie's New York, 17 November 1999, lot 550; a secrétaire en cabinet sold Christie's Monaco, 1 July 1995, lot 58; a writing table sold Christie's Paris, 19 December 2007, lot 373; a commode à encoignure sold Christie's New York, 30 October 1993, lot 374; a bureau à cylindre sold A. Drouot-Ricchelie, 2 December 1994, lot 196). That they were both being supplied mounts by Rémond is quite understandable. Riesener stopped working for the Royal Garde Meuble after 1785 and instead turned to the famous marchand-mercier Dominque Daguerre to provide a commercial outlet for his workshop. Both Roentgen and Rémond worked with or for Daguerre, reinforcing the idea of a constant circulation of models, ideas and designs between the different craftsmen. The mounts to the reserves on either side of the roll-top, perhaps originally intended to embellish uprights, recall Gouthière’s design for the gilt-bronze mounts to the legs of a pair of green jasper tables supplied to Louis-Marie-Augustin, duc d’Aumont (Jacobsen, H., op. cit., p.84, fig.36) and a blue turquin table supplied to Louise-Jeanne de Durfort de Duras, Duchess du Mazarin, now in the Frick Collection, New York (Ref. 1915.5.59) (Vignon, C. & Baulez, C., op. cit., pp. 290-294).
Ken Hill was built by a Yorkshire family of industry, who had made their fortunes from the wave of engineering in Wakefield in the early nineteenth century. E. Green & Son, established in 1821 by Edward Green, were master ironmongers and their patents for re-circulating steam saw business boom. Edward’s son, Sir Edward Green (1831-1923) became MP for Wakefield, a Captain in the 1st West Yeomanry and was elevated to the peerage, as Baronet of Wakefield and Ken Hill in 1886.
Sir Edward’s personal interest in country estates began with his lease of Heath Old Hall, an Elizabethan house near Wakefield, which he set about restoring, remodelling and filling with large commissions of new furniture. By the 1870s business was expanding rapidly, and in 1877 Sir Edward bought the Snettisham Estate in Norfolk. He commissioned John J. Stevenson to build a new house, Ken Hill in 1879, whose previous work had mainly been urbane townhouses. Ken Hill is an interesting example of Queen Anne Revival architecture in Britain, yet with a more Gothic, irregular appearance. Originally intended as a shooting lodge, it was later extended and became the Green family’s primary residence. Sir Edward’s son Frank Green had acquired Treasurer’s House, York in 1898 and similarly collected paintings and antique furniture. The sale of Ken Hill and its contents in 1999 at Christie’s followed the death in 1996 of Sir Stephen Lycett Green, 4th Baronet and great-grandson of Sir Edward.
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