During the second half of the 18th century, the workshop of Abraham and David Roentgen at Neuwied on the Rhine was among Europe's most successful cabinetmaking enterprises, employing at its height nearly two hundred specialized artisans. The Roentgens' ingenious inventions combined innovative designs with intriguing mechanical devices that revolutionized traditional types of European furniture. Key to their success was the pairing of the skilled craftsman Abraham with his boldly entrepreneurial son David, whose clients included the most prominent sovereigns of Europe, among them Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Frederick William II of Prussia. In addition, the Roentgens perfected the practice of adapting prefabricated elements and elaborate trompe l'oeil marquetry panels to the specifications of their customers.
Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens is the first comprehensive English-language survey of the firm in nearly fifty years, from its founding in 1742 to its closing in the early 1800s. Detailed discussions explain the intricate workings of these extraordinary pieces and are complemented by illustrations showing them in their contemporary interiors. Design drawings, portraits of the cabinetmakers and their patrons, and previously unpublished historical documents from the Roentgen estate further illuminate the work of these master craftsmen. An essential contribution to the study of European furniture, this fascinating book firmly establishes the Roentgens as the principal Continental European cabinetmakers of the ancien régime.
"With a catalogue that provides the first scholarly treatment of the subject in English in more than 30 years, it promises to be one of the most significant furniture exhibitions of the decade."
The New York Times
“… the book, by Mr. Koeppe and other international scholars, puts this art in a radically new perspective…Should you miss the show, do not ignore a book that lays the foundation of a new approach to the decorative arts as part of a cultural process.”
The Magazine Antiques
"This resplendent catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition is worthy of its subject ... impressive essays on the Roentgens, their working methods, and their world ... the fascinating story is at once artistic, social and spiritual."
Australian Book Review
"This superbly illustrated book has essays by a team of experts, led by Wolfram Koeppe, on a range of the Roentgens' activities, their lives, and their relationships with key patrons, followed by brief object-specific essays on each of the pieces of furniture included in the exhibition. It is a model publications on decorative arts of the most extravagant and inventive kind."