The antique marquetry furniture of the Roentgen cabinetmaking firm was among the most beautiful and ingenious ever produced, and now some fifty pieces, including antique desks and cabinets never before seen outside Europe, have been showcased in a new exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgen Family Cabinetmakers, is the most comprehensive exposition of the German furniture-making firm ever produced. A ticketed event running until 27 January 2013, with a free tour on 30 December, it is the perfect Christmas treat for antiques enthusiasts in Lancashire. Every antique cabinet, desk and table is a masterpiece of the marquetry masters’ art, but it is the unique mechanical devices which really make these pieces stand out. No antique desk or gaming table is ever what it seems. Concealed drawers and compartments spring out at the turn of a key. Writing surfaces slide out, Harry Potter fashion, at the release of a hidden catch. Some of the devices are so complex that video animations are used to help explain them.
The pre-industrial workshop run by Abraham Roentgen (1711–1793) and his son David (1743–1807) reached its peak in the late 18th century. Employing around 200 specialist craftsmen, the revolutionary furniture, clocks and automatons quickly found favour with wealthy international buyers, including the crowned heads of Europe. Marie-Antoinette, Catherine the Great and King Louis XVI of France were all valued clients, paying upwards of £3000 per item.
Amazingly, the antique dealers of Lancashire often have antique marquetry furniture at prices far below those that Louis XVI paid.
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