(b. 1743, Herrnhaag, d. 1807, Wiesbaden)


Marquetry of boxwood, mahogany and walnut, gilt brass, marble, 84 x 131 x 66 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This furniture is a rectangular commode or chest of drawers with canted front corners, the three cupboard doors, each decorated with a panel of marquetry illustrating scenes from a performance of the Commedia dell'Arte, the top set with a slab of grey marble. The commode is veneered with boxwood, mahogany and walnut, with maple, and holly and with other woods, on a carcase constructed of oak, pine, cherry, maple and mahogany. The commode is set with complex, weight- and spring- driven mechanisms that are controlled by a single key. These cause the side doors and some interior drawers to spring open in different combinations at the turn of the key in different positions.

The marquetry panel would have been designed by the artist Januarius Zick (1730-1797) and the actual working drawings for the marquetry would have been prepared by Elie Gervais (1721-1797).

This commode is one of a small group of commodes made in the workshop of David Roentgen between about 1775 and 1785, all with similar, but not identical marquetry showing scenes from a performance of the Commedia dell' Arte. The form, with doors covering the drawers, was by then known as a commode a vantaux (a commode with doors) but, with the central section formed as a cupboard, it might also be called a commode en bas d'armoire (a commode in the form of the base of a cupboard).

Three commodes are known of this pattern, one in the Metropolitan Museum, New York and another in the collections of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich (this one being, in all probability, the pair to the V&A commode).