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Creator(s): Abraham Roentgen (Cabinet Maker) , David Roentgen (Cabinet Maker)

On view in: French Drawing Room

About this object

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. On the front of the desk, the elaborate mother-of-pearl monogram surmounted by a crown contains the letters “MA.” Long speculated to be the initials of Marie Antoinette, this storied connection has finally been dispelled. The monogram is now thought to be that of Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria and the Electress of Saxony (part of present-day Germany). Maria Antonia was a talented and artistic woman of the 18th century. Not only was she a respected composer and patron of the arts, she also served as regent of Saxony from 1763-1768 until her son came of age. The musical instruments and other images on the marquetry reflect her artistic interests and pursuits.

The rolltop desk is decorated with various types of wood, mother-of-pearl and ivory veneers to create pictorial marquetry depicting clusters of instruments framed by bands of stylized motifs. In the center of the roll-top is the monogram MA surmounted by a crown and topped by an orb and cross. The panel below features painter's tools: a palette, brushes and easel.

Object name:
Made from:
Oak, cherry, and other woods, veneered with sycamore, tulipwood, rosewood, and maple-- mother of pearl -- ivory--gilt bronze -- steel -- leather -- glass
Made in:
Neuwied, Germany
Date made:
116.2 × 106.7 × 63.5 cm (45 3/4 × 42 × 25 in.)

Detailed information for this item

Catalog number:
Signature marks:
MONOGRAM MA [on front]
Credit line:
Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973