Long-case clock

by David Roentgen

The cabinet-maker Abraham Roentgen and his son David were active in one of the best of European furniture centres, the small town of Neuwied on the Rhine.

The long-case clock was made in 1775. The case is of poplar wood with a lot of coloured wooden inlay. The action, by Peter Kientzing, shows seconds, minutes, hours, the day and the position of the moon in relation to the earth as well as some of the stars. The clock also has an in-built musical box which can automatically play a variety of authentic 18th century tunes. One can choose between music every hour and music every three hours. The tunes are produced by means of rollers with a combination of strings and organ pipes. The rollers can be replaced so as to play new tunes - a kind of 18th century gramophone or honky-tonk piano (the technique used here is just the same). The tunes include, for example, a quadrille and minuet, but there are other tunes as well. The full orchestra, as it were, consists of wind instruments of wooden and metal pipes plus 50 strings tuned from A to top B. The clockwork and the musical box were last renovated in 1962.

Roentgen was an outstandingly skilful cabinet-maker, his speciality being furniture with the most weird and wonderful mechanisms. His workshop developed into the most high-class furniture factory ever known. Not only was David Roentgen a skilled craftsman, he was also a very smart businessman. Catherine II in St Petersburg, Frederick II of Prussia and Marie Antoinette in Paris competed with German princes to buy his ornamental pieces, the prices of which were simply astronomical, even in those days. Looking back, we may feel that Roentgen's inventive genius sometimes ran away with him, making his furniture heavier and more overloaded than is really practical.


 
 
 

Picture: Long-case clock by David Roentgen

Long-case clock by David Roentgen

David Roentgen's intarsia technique, using different kinds of wood, has a precision of detail which no one can equal, not even the Parisian ébénistes. Just look at the figures on the case. They represent what is known as a chinoiserie, probably composed by Roentgen's good friend Januaris Zick.


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