Monthly Archives: January 2014

David Roentgen Papers, 1773-1820

David Roentgen (1743-1807) was cabinetmaker to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France, Empress Catherine II of Russia, and King Frederick William II of Prussia. There was a recent exhibition at The Met, Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, which featured some of his work.

Postcard reproduction of framed portrait of David Roentgen

Postcard reproduction of framed portrait of David Roentgen

The Roentgen family workshop was located at Neuwied, near Cologne. David Roentgen was admitted as maître ébéniste to the trade corporation of Paris cabinetmakers in 1780. Empress Catherine II of Russia bought large quantities of his furniture after Roentgen’s first visit to St. Petersburg. King Frederick William II of Prussia was also his client, and Roentgen eventually was appointed court furnisher to the king of Prussia. Roentgen’s early work was in the rococo style, but this was abandoned between 1775 and 1780 for classical forms.

The David Roentgen Papers, 1773-1820 collection includes family correspondence, chiefly letters from Roentgen to his son Phil. Jakob and to his brother Johannes, as well as business documents, including letters addressed to Roentgen, chiefly from Frederick William II of Prussia or his agents, a letter patent from Frederick William II of Prussia, and a receipt for payment of furniture made for Catherine II of Russia. Also included is this “Appointment of David Roentgen as Privy Councillor to the Prussian Court, February 23, 1791″:

HighlightsRoentgen2There are additional Roentgen family papers, including: a letter from David’s wife Dorothea to her son Phil. Jakob; letters from various correspondents addressed to their son, A. Roentgen; the will of Dorothea Roentgen, dated Sept. 13, 1819; and a genealogical notebook with entries by Dorothea Roentgen (and others?) between 1773 and 1823.

One of the more visually exciting items in the collection is a photographic reproduction of a silhouette composition by J.F. Anthing, labeled on the recto “David Röntgen,” the original of which is identified as being owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art Print Department:

Postcard reproduction of a painted silhouette by J.F. Anthing, ca. 1784-1786

Postcard reproduction of a painted silhouette by J.F. Anthing, ca. 1784-1786

The following items also form part of the collection: a group of six unidentified silhouettes (by David Roentgen) wrapped in a folded sheet of paper labeled “Frau Rötchen”; a photographic reproduction of a portrait identified as “David Röntgen”; an engraved portrait of Ephraim Stare; two unidentified photos of caskets presumably made by the Roentgen workshop.

Educational Programs and Listings

As evidenced by our Educational Programs and Listing collection, guides, maps, lectures and courses have been at the forefront of the Museum’s educational program since it opened to the public in the early 1870’s.

One of the earliest guides from 1875 takes visitors through the Museum’s pottery and porcelain collection.   A 1923 children’s program, Story-hours for members’children, has a lively roster of over twenty stories told to children with whimsical titles including “Winged caps and Wooden Shoes” and “Boys and Girls of Sun-Bright Spain”.

Story-hours for members' children

Story-hours for members’ children

Today, the Nolen Library greets thousands of children a year, six days a week for “Storytime,”conducted by staff members from across the museum, who read books that range from childhood classics such as, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, to books about art, including Magritte’s Marvelous Hat, a Picture Book by D.B. Johnson and Vincent Colors: Words and Pictures by Vincent Van Gogh.

Family guides and maps have ranged in topic throughout the years and have included ones on women artists, mythical creatures, doors and doorways, tea sets, and medieval manuscripts.

Six women, six stories: family guide

Six women, six stories: family guide

Tea sets at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: a family guide

Tea sets at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: a family guide

A most unusual guide is Food and visual culture at the Metropolitan of Art, a clever gallery itinerary suggesting objects with culinary themes including the production, consumption and service of food of different periods and cultures.  For example, it includes a discussion of Edward Hopper’s Tables for Ladies and how the enticing fruit displayed in the window of the restaurant is in contrast to the reticence of the diners.


In addition to guides, there are also a number of family maps in the Digital Collections, including the most recent map illustrated by celebrated cartoonist, John Kerschbaum.


Illustrated map of the Museum

A poster puzzle, Kerschbaum’s award winning guide is a depiction of all the museum galleries with over five hundred objects that are currently on display rendered cartoon-style with visual humor.  According to Kerschbaum, the detailed map took him fours years to complete.  It was drafted on paper with ink and white out, then scanned and colored on the computer.  The actual size is 19” x 24” on Bristol board.
Last year, the Nolen Library and Teen programs invited John Kerschbaum to the Museum for an “ARText” event to lead a workshop for teens.  Kerschbaum discussed his experiences as an illustrator, after which teens visited the galleries and created their own illustrations of works of art that they saw.

This final image, appearing in a 1913 museum supplement to the Bulletin titled, The Museum and the Schools, is a rare glimpse of school children visiting the galleries accompanied by an essay, “If I Were You: A Museum Romance.”

From: The Museum and the schools

From: The Museum and the schools

The anecdote, written by a teacher from Missouri, recounts her experiences at the Met which are filled with praise.  She writes: “. . . my docent – was an indefatigable lady, refined and cordial, full of information on art, artists and curios . . . once you have seen this friendly docent, who seems eager to function, full of the feeling that she has intrusted to her riches that ought to be used, you see, when a piece of museum literature drifts your way, shining eyes of an invitation, and outstretched hands of welcome behind it . . . But chiefly we have learned that the museum and all it holds and stands for is ours” (found on page 9).

The same 1913 publication also contains reports and updates on educational programs, including this uplifting one: “Last year more teachers and their classes visited the Museum than ever before, and it is hoped that still more may come this year. The Museum desires to be of real service to this class of visitors, and to make every effort through its Instructor, class room, and lectures to meet the needs of all who find its collections helpful in teaching.”

All of this material can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection.

The Samuel Putnam Avery Papers

Watson Library owns the Samuel Putnam Avery Papers, a collection which consists of autograph letters, sketches, two memorial albums, a scrapbook of engravings, and other types of documents.  Born in New York City, Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) was an art dealer, rare book and print collector, and wood engraver.  He was a founder and lifelong trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Avery was also a keen collector of rare books, fine bindings, and nineteenth-century prints.  He was seminal in the establishment of a separate print room at the New York Public Library in 1900 and founded the Avery Architectural Library at Columbia University in 1890.

Avery’s work as an art dealer included the commissioning and collecting of American paintings, the sale of engravings, and the management of an art gallery that imported modern European art.  Our collection includes several letters sent to Avery from American artists, including James McNeill Whistler, John Trumbull, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Lockwood de Forest, Eastman Johnson, John La Farge, Asher B. Durand, and Charles Willson Peale.  In a letter from Frederic Edwin Church dated 1860, Church tells Avery that he has a proof of the “Andes” plate in its advancing state, referring to the painting now at The Museum known as Heart of the Andes.  Church ends his letter by writing, “I am no judge of such matters, but I think it is great in promise.”

F.E. Church letter to Samuel P. Avery, 1860 Nov. 21

F.E. Church letter to Samuel P. Avery

In 1867, Avery moved to Paris to assist with the Universal Exhibition and was thus put into contact with various French and German artists, including Ludwig Knaus, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jules Breton, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Ernest Meissonier.  In addition, in the 1870s, Avery took annual trips to Europe during which time he commissioned art for clients such as William Henry Vanderbilt, James Jerome Hill, William Wilson Corcoran, and Edwin Denison Morgan.  Our collection includes several documents reflecting Avery’s role as a dealer of European art, such as this 1874 receipt from Bouguereau acknowledging payment of 22,500 francs by Avery for Bouguereau’s painting, La Charité, exhibited at the Salon of 1874.

Receipt from William Bouguereau

Receipt from William Bouguereau

Our collection also includes two memorial albums which consist of illustrated autograph letters, sketches, receipts, and calling cards sent to Avery from prominent nineteenth-century painters, printmakers, and art historians, as well as condolence letters written to his family on the event of Avery’s death in 1904.  Below is a sketch and letter sent to Avery from Bouguereau dated 1874.


Bouguereau sketch


Bouguereau letter dated 1874

Our collection of Samuel Putnam Avery Papers also contains a scrapbook of sixty-one print proofs and commercial wood engravings by Avery, including book and magazine illustrations such as this one depicting life in New York.


Magazine illustration

It also includes advertisements like the following for the sale of family lots at the New York Bay Cemetery.



The scrapbook is bound in full red straight-grain morocco tooled in blind and gold, and the engravings are mounted on forty-eight leaves of colored paper.

This material can be found in both the Manuscripts and Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collections.