David Roentgen, cabinetmaker to the kings

On this day, August 11, 1743 David Roentgen, cabinetmaker to the kings was born in Herrnhag, the centre of the Moravian religious community north of Frankfurt.

David learned his trade at his father’s workshop, which he inherited in 1772. His furniture were appreciated both for their intricate patterns of wood inlay as well as amusing mechanical features like secret drawers and the like.

Apart from being a great cabinet maker, he was also a great businessman. He was seen as one of the great “Ebeniste” of Paris together with Riesener and Oeben. But he actually produced his furniture at his manufacture in Neuwied. At the peak his production facility had 80 employees working with a wide range of subcontractors allowing him to produce several hundred pieces per year.

Most of it went for export across Europe and some pieces had to be assembled upon arrival making him the inventor of flat-packed furniture…sort of.

The French revolution destroyed the demand for his furniture as his client base lost their homes and heads. He closed his production in around 1805 and desperately tried to flog his remaining stock. He died in 1807 whilst on mission for his protestant community.

Today a half decent Roentgen Bureau will set you back about $200,000.

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