Marquetry is the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.
The veneers used are primarily woods, but may include bone, ivory, turtle-shell, mother-of-pearl, pewter, brass or fine metals
Many exotic woods as well as common European varieties can be employed, from the near-white of boxwood to the near-black of ebony, with veneers that retain stains well, like sycamore, dyed to provide colours not found in nature.
The simplest kind of marquetry uses only two sheets of veneer, which are temporarily glued together and cut with a fine saw, producing two contrasting panels of identical design
Finishing the piece will require fine abrasive paper always backed by a sanding block. Either ordinary varnish, special varnishes, modern polyurethane -oil or water based- good waxes and even the technique of french polish are different methods used to seal and finish the piece.
Marquetry and parquetry as an overriding influence in the design of English furniture came with the return of Charles II after his exile in France.
The court of Louis XIV provided the inspiration for floral and seaweed marquetries, geometric parquetries and juxtaposed veneers in early antique marquetry furniture produced by French designers such as Gole and Boulle to create this revolution in English cabinet making. Boulle’s bombé commodes inlaid with fine marquetry and intricate inlays of brass and tortoiseshell called Boulle-work in the trade are upheld as some of the finest pieces of antique marquetry furniture.
In England it was the beginning of the 18th century in the reign of Queen Anne that saw an explosion in antique marquetry furniture, many being veneered and decorated with walnut and other naturally dyed woods.
From 1750 onwards, the rococo and neo classical styles demanded fine inlay-work and antique marquetry furniture was complementing the architectural qualities of the houses in which they sat at that time. Architect decorators like William Kent and Robert Adam remodelled houses with designs that permeated through from the fabric of their buildings to the hand crafted marquetries and veneers of their furniture. Kent’s work had an Italian baroque quality where Adam’s moved more towards the finer lines of neo-classicism and the excavations of Rome and Pompeii.
French rococo influences also were mirrored by furniture designers such as Thomas Chippendale, where Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite followed the more restrained neo classical designs of Robert Adam. During the Victorian era, Thomas Jordan’s woodcarving machine enabled a huge resurgence in the manufacture of antique marquetry furniture to satisfy the growing middle class market who wanted their houses to emulate these past styles.
At Christian Davies Antiques we are able to provide a good selection of period and revival pieces of antique marquetry furniture that reflect many of these cultural influences and changes. Our antique marquetry furniture is ideally situated for antique furniture lovers in Preston, Lancashire and across Cumbria.