Oeuvre

A highly important ormolu and brass mounted mahognay "bureau à gradin"


David ROENTGEN (1743-1807)

NEUWIED, circa 1786
Probably for Catherine the Great

The bronzes by François REMOND

Height: 130 cm (51 ¼ in.)
Length: 166, 5 cm (65 ½ in.)
Depth: 90 cm (35 ½ in.)

Provenance : - Probably collection of Catherine the Great.
- Sold by private treaty by the Soviet government c. 1930-35.
- Collection Maurice Rheims, Paris, thence by descent.

Literature: - Josef Maria Greber, Abraham und David Roentgen, Möbel für Europa, Josef Keller Verlag, Starnberg, 1980, n° 704,705, pp. 346, 347.
- Dietrich Fabian, Roentgenmöbel aus Neuwied, Leben und Werk von Abraham und David Roentgen, 1986, n° 178,179,180, pp. 90, 91.
- Achim Stiegel, Möbelkunst von Abraham und David Roentgen, Berlin, 2007, pp. 114-115 footnote 14 et pp.156-157 footnote 1.

The large rectangular mahogany top, rimed by a plain gilt bronze band, rests on twelve tapering fluted mahogany and brass Doric columns linked by a U shaped solid wood stepped base. The bases and capitals of each column are with gilt bronze moulds chiselled with thin gadroons. The apron opens with three drawers and is applied with circular gilt bronze medallions chiselled with masks figuring alternatively Mercury, the Moon and the Sun and with lozenge medallions chiselled with stiff leaves.
The top is bordered with a mahogany and gilt bronze baluster shape gallery surmounted by six gilt bronze urns, the covers of which when upside down form sockets for eventual candles. At the back of the top is a stepped terrace with a cabinet in the middle.

The cabinet is topped by a mahogany and gilt bronze baluster shape gallery surmounted by small gilt bronze vases, two by two in the corners. It is flanked on the amboynas façade by two Ionic gilt bronze columns, applied in the centre with Ionic fluted pilasters and arches, and with ranks of gilt bronze beads forming rectangles and with fine relieves. The central relief figures three putti seated on clouds with a large radiating sun at the back: one putto is holding a laurel wreath, the central one with a cithara in a hand and probably representing Apollo as a baby, the third one is with a branch of laurel. Each side relief is representing a putto enveloped in foliage garlands and seated on a vase.
The top rail with a key hole is applied with a pierced frieze of foliage scrolls, eagles and arrows, and also decorated with indented frieze and ranks of eggs and darts. By turning the key of the top rail, it opens the front of the cabinet that goes down, disappears in the lower part of the desk and reveals six cases. By pressing a central button in the bottom of the cabinet, the front will go up by a system of spring and close again the cabinet. By pressing the side buttons inset in the inside bottom of the cabinet, it reveals by the same spring system a drawer in the small steps on both side of the cabinet.

Despite the absence of inventory numbers or other indications on our desk, we can assume that it comes from the collection of Catherine the Great for whom David Roentgen used to deliver hundreds of pieces of furniture for the Winter Palace or her other palaces.
For example, the second delivery included not less than 130 numbers.
Our desk that can be compared to a very similar piece dated 1786 and housed in the Hermitage Museum was obviously delivered with a larger group of furniture sold by David Roentgen to Catherine the Great of Russia.
Today only 22 numbers are housed in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg as most of the pieces were sold in the 1930’s by the Soviets. The descriptions of the catalogues of that time being brief and not illustrated by photographs, it is difficult today to trace those pieces of furniture.

Our desk dated from around 1786 forms part of the neoclassical production of the Roentgen workshop, unsurpassed in the quality of its design and workmanship. It can be compared also to a desk, lost during the Second World War, but formerly in the Schlossmuseum in Berlin.

It does exist preparatory drawings signed Louis-Simon Boizot for the gilt bronze medallions figuring Mercury, Diana and Apollo on the apron of the desk. It is very rare to be able to follow the elaboration of a piece of furniture from the creation of the model to its execution.