18th-century mechanical furniture at the Met
RENEE MINUS WHITE Fashion & Beauty Editor | 9/7/2012, 12:47 p.m.
"Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens," a new exhibition coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Oct. 30 through Jan. 27, 2013, will be the first comprehensive survey of the Roentgen family's cabinetmaking firm, which was in operation until the early 1800s. Some 60 pieces of furniture, many of which have never before been lent outside of Europe, and several clocks will be complemented by paintings. Some pieces in this collection will include portraits of the Roentgen family and prints that depict the masterpieces of furniture in contemporary interiors.
The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by the Anna Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.
The meteoric rise of the workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711-93) and his son David (1743-1807) is the most spectacular chapter in the history of innovative 18th-century Continental furniture-making. Their original designs combined with their use of mechanical devices revolutionized traditional French and English furniture styles. From its base in Germany, the workshop served an international clientele. The Roentgens utilized a sophisticated business model combined with intensive research on potential patrons, personal taste and forward-looking marketing and production techniques.
Many of the works in "Extravagant Inventions" will be lent from distinguished international museums and royal collections. Six pieces from the Metropolitan Museum's own collection of Roentgen furniture will be featured, in addition to two that are on long-term loan to the museum. The exhibition will showcase many outstanding pieces, including a writing desk (circa 1760) designed by Abraham Roentgen, a spectacular automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette (1784) and a mechanical cabinet (1779) made for King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia.
The most complicated mechanical devices in the exhibition will be illustrated through virtual video animations. Drawings and portraits will show us the cabinetmakers, their families and important patrons and a series of documents owned by the Metropolitan Museum that originated from the Roentgen estate will underline the long-overlooked significance and legacy of the Roentgens as Europe's principal cabinetmakers to royalty.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue edited by Wolfram Koeppe, with contributions written by leading experts in the field. It will provide the first scholarly treatment of the subject in English in more than 30 years. The catalogue will be published by the Met and Yale University Press, and will be available in the museum's bookshops.