David Roentgen

  • 1743 - 1807, master 1780
  • Artist
  • German

Called the "most celebrated ébéniste in Europe" by his contemporaries, David Roentgen was a successful entrepreneur who transformed the business founded by his father, Abraham Roentgen, from a national to an international firm with clients in France, Germany, England, and Russia. After succeeding his father as head of the furniture workshop in 1772, Roentgen tried to broaden their clientele. He realized that the largest market for fine furniture at this time was in Paris, where the king, court, and aristocracy were annually spending vast amounts. In 1779 he sold his first piece to Louis XVI for a huge sum; over the next ten years, he supplied the French court with furniture costing nearly a million livres--more than any other ébéniste.

In 1780 Queen Marie-Antoinette appointed Roentgen as her cabinetmaker, and he was also granted admission as a master ébéniste in the guild of cabinetmakers. After a visit to Russia, Catherine the Great ordered large amounts of furniture from him, writing with satisfaction, "David Roentgen and his two hundred cases have arrived safely and at the right moment to satisfy my gluttony." He also traveled to Italy, Holland, and Prussia.

Roentgen's furniture is frequently decorated with elaborate marquetry. His workshop, with the assistance of Peter Kinzing, also installed complicated mechanical devices that made drawers and reading and writing stands appear and disappear.