Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Game table

David Roentgen (German, Herrnhaag 1743–1807 Wiesbaden, master 1780)
ca. 1780–83
German, Neuwied am Rhine
Oak and walnut, veneered with mahogany, maple, holly (the last two partially stained); iron, steel, brass, gilt bronze; felt and partially tooled and gilded leather
Overall: H. 30 13/16 x W. 38 11/16 x D. 19 1/2 in. (78.3 x 98.3 x 49.5 cm); Overall depth, when opened: 38 9/16 in. (97.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Pfeiffer Fund, 2007
Accession Number:
2007.42.1a–e, .2a–o, aa–nn
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 547
In the eighteenth century, when dicing and playing cards, chess, and backgammon had become widely popular, game tables furnished many upper- and middle-class houses, and they were frequently bought in pairs.[1] Yet space was often at a premium in the intimate rooms fashionable in those times, and patrons sought furnishing that could perform multiple tasks. This piece functions as a console table, which can be pushed back against a wall when not in use, and as a desk for writing and reading or a table for playing cards and chess. It also contains a concealed backgammon box that is released by a spring. The top’s surface and the sides are veneered with superbly grained mahogany, framed only on the recessed area below the top (the apron) with brass moldings. The corner blocks are inset with brass fluting and supported on square, tapered legs that can be removed, facilitating transport. In its construction and mechanics, the table is in the tradition of the examples decorated with chinoiserie inlay that Roentgen made for Duke Charles Alexander of Lorraine (see MAK— Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, Vienna, inv. no. H270), and of a game table with floral and figural marquetry in Munich (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, inv. no. 84/239).

Documenting the high esteem in which Neuwied furniture was held at the Russian court in Saint Petersburg are two watercolors that show a pair of game tables in the Armory Room at Gatchina Palace, near the capital.[2] One of them shows the tables covered, probably in leather, for protection when not in use.[3] Other examples are currently on display in Pavlovsk Palace, outside Saint Petersburg.

This table bears the stamp of the cabinetmaker Pierre Macret, indicating that at one time it furnished a Paris residence, and further that the French also appreciated its restrained design in the "English manner," with mahogany and gilded mounts. Macret likely repaired the table shortly after its arrival in Paris. As there is no guild stamp on the piece, it seems that he simply wanted to leave his mark on it, or even, perhaps, to claim it a one of his own products.

An inventory made in 1810 of the assembly room at Weimar Palace, where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was privy councilor to Duke Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, lists a "game table veneered with mahogany, and decorated with brass moldings. With a hidden ‘Tocadille [backgammon board],’ 3 feet 4 inches long, 1 foot 8 inches deep. By Röntchen."[4]

[Wolfram Koeppe 2012]

[1] Princely residences sometimes had a large gambling room, such as Marie Antoinette’s salon de jeux at the Château de Compiègne and at Versailles. They were furnished with game tables in a variety of shapes that had several different playing surfaces. See John Whitehead. The French Interior in the Eighteenth Century. New York, 1993, pp. 212–13.

[2] For one of these watercolors by Edward Petrovich Hau, The Armory Room in Gatchina Palace, Russia, 1875, in which two Roentgen game tables can be seen beside the two front pillars, see Emmanuel Ducamp, ed. Imperial Palaces in the Vicinity of St. Petersburg: Watercolours, Paintings and Engravings from the XVIIIth and XIXth Centuries. Gatchina. Paris, 1992, pp. 82–83, pl. 35.

[3] In the Hau watercolor, cited above, the three tops of the tables are clearly visible.

[4] Quoted in Andreas Büttner. "Roentgen in Dessau, Weimar und anderswo: David Roentgens Verkaufsbemühungen in den 1790er Jahren." In Andreas Büttner and Ursula Weber-Woelk, eds. David Roentgen: Möbelkunst und Marketing im 18. Jahrhundert. Regensburg, 2009, p. 74.
Inscription: Stamped on underside: MACRET
Private Collection, Switzerland ; [ sale, Sotheby's, Zürich , December 7, 1994, no. 257 ] ; Private Collection, Germany (until 2006) ; [ Vera Roeser ; sold to MMA ]
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