American Elephants

Roentgen Furniture: The Berlin Secretary Cabinet by The Elephant's Child

The Berlin Secretary Cabinet is just one of the extraordinary pieces that was part of a recent show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It ran from October until the end of January.

The workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793) and his son David (1743-1807) blazed across eighteenth century continental Europe. Their innovative designs were combined with ingenious mechanical devices that revolutionized  traditional French and English furniture types. Their customers were the royalty and aristocracy. Beautifully inlaid, stunning marquetry, with hidden drawers and surprising unfoldings, concealed writing surfaces, easels, candle stands and clocks.

The video of the secretary cabinet, above,¬† is amazing, and best viewed in full screen to grasp all the intricacies of their work. Other pieces can be seen at this link from the Museum. There are videos of many of the pieces. Don’t miss the automaton of Marie Antoinette playing the dulcimer.

Back in the real world, I have trouble finding what I want in my ordinary desk. No marquetry, no hidden drawers, no musical clock. Just a desktop computer, a keyboard, a lamp, and two cat baskets. Fortunately, in the 18th century they weren’t asking ‘where did I put my car keys,’ and ‘what did I do with the stamps?’ I wonder what they did do with all those drawers?


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