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“She simply had to have it.”

“She simply had to have it.”

Roentgen Writing Desk. Dumbarton Oaks House Collection, HC.F.1962.390.(CF)

James N. Carder (November 2012)

A beautiful eighteenth-century writing desk by David Roentgen from the Dumbarton Oaks Museum’s House Collection is presently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013). This ingenious desk (seen at right) can be used either in a seated or standing position and with the top surface either flat or at a slant, as seen in the images below. The acquisition of the desk was somewhat unusual, and the correspondence documenting its purchase from the Munich dealer Julius Böhler is retained in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. In 1962, then Dumbarton Oaks director, John S. Thacher, wanted to acquire the desk for his personal collection and had it sent to Dumbarton Oaks from Germany. However, on September 18 he wrote the following to Böhler: “Yesterday I returned from a brief trip to Ireland and to my great pleasure discovered that the Roentgen writing desk had arrived safely at Dumbarton Oaks. As you will notice, the enclosed check is from Dumbarton Oaks and not from me personally, because when I showed the desk to Mrs. Bliss she decided that she simply had to have it. Therefore it will be part of the permanent collections here. I shall of course miss not having it in my house, but I am happy to think that it has a permanent home.”

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