More so than our main speciality, the creation of artistic marquetry is a real passion.


The history of marquetry


Marquetry in the arts:
The art of marquetry is extremely ancient. The first cutting and inlaying probably appeared in Asia Minor
approximately 350 years before Jesus Christ.
It seems equally likely that the Egyptians had developed the technique of inlaying ivory and ebony very early on;
they even knew about albumin glue and blood for assembling their plaques.
All these techniques have been taken up and used by the great civilizations. But it was several centuries before marquetry was seen to really develop and become generalized in interior decorating.

From 300 A.D., the fall of the Roman Empire was brewing. Populations moved, an upsurge
of the Germanic Empire was seen, Rome broke up; funds and artists migrated towards Turkey;
Byzantine art started to appear in A.D. 395 and was to continue for a very long time.

At that time, in the west, a long period of unrest, lasting right until the Romanesque period,
explains the weakness of the arts. Artists no longer created;
towns and villages were continually plundered and burned by barbaric hordes.
This chaos, which raged in Europe for several centuries, totally wiped out the arts, and all the known techniques,
such as assembling, gluing and marquetry were lost.

Imagine ourselves in about 800 A.D., where Charlemagne is trying to create the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation).
In particular, he is fighting against the Moors who are moving in the direction of Spain.
Charlemagne forms an alliance with the first Merovingian kings in the region of Gaulle,
and together they drive the invaders into the sea.
The Moslems crushed, a long period of stability is established in Europe,
during which two very important artistic periods succeed one another:

Romanesque (1000 to 1140)
Gothic (1140 to 1450)
an époque where we see, little by little, decoration reappear, principally in the form of sculptures and mouldings.

Chillon Castle
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Castle detail to the mm
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It is not until the 15th century, in Italy, that marquetry will be “reinvented”.
We are in circa 1450, in Italy. This period is one of the most important in the history of art, science, literature, etc…
namely,the Renaissance.
This artistic, scientific, philosophic and literature revival is linked to a single invention: printing.

Under the Renaissance, extensive researching, inventing and learning are taking place.
Such genii as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc. are appearing.

Art schools are coming into being in numerous Italian towns. More particularly in Florence,
where Francesco di Giovanni di Matteo has founded a school for the art of marquetry.
The most prominent representative of this school is Benedetto de Maïano,
considered to be the real inventor of marquetry as we know it today. A will take a further fifty years or so before the Renaissance crosses the border and reaches France and the rest of Europe.

It should be realized that whilst fortified castles are still being built in Europe,
something else is taking place in Italy. While Europe is still “cramming blocks of stone in walls”,
Italy is decorating, producing marquetry, painting and sculpting.

Not before the start of the 16th century will the Renaissance make its appearance in France,
thanks to a major event: the Milanese War.

After having waged war for many years in Italy, Charles VIII, Louis XII and François 1st return home. Impressed by the richness of the decorations of Italian constructions, they want to build palaces identical to those they saw in Italy, and it is under the impulse of François 1st that colonies of marquetry specialist, cabinet makers, decorators and sculptors are hired. They take up residence in the castle of Fontainebleau in 1526, where they create the school of the same name.

Detail of the portrait of Sheikh Zayed with mm-precise marquetry

Inset made by cutting and assembling 148 pieces.
Sixteen species of precious wood are used: ebony, imbuya, vavona, eucalyptus, pear tree, chequer tree, etc.
Overall dimension with frame border 72 mm.
Inset decorating a “luxury” jewellery box made by Vaudaux SA, Geneva
Click on the picture

In France, marquetry took off to a certain extent from the end of the 15th century. Firstly under the reign of Charles VIII,
then under Louis XII and François 1st to the m/m. However, it disappeared again following the Religious Wars,
which were disastrous for the arts and which the Renaissance did not survive.

Under Louis XIII, France rediscovered a period of prosperity favourable for artistic evolution.
Decoration, particularly marquetry, the technique of which was evolving, reappeared. From then on,
cutting was done with a saw and no longer with a knife. This represented a substantial improvement,
which permited very sinuous traces to be followed much more precisely,
thus leading to more precise detailing of even the most complex motifs.

It was also during this period that German artists devised a very ingenious cutting technique.
It consisted of cutting several superimposed wood types following a trace, and the technique is called tarsia a incastro.
It was taken up several years later by the celebrated André Charles Boulle. (1642-1732)
Consequently, André Charles Boulle is not the inventor of the technique that bears his name,
but he did bring in materials previously ruled out for marquetry, including metals, such as tin and brass,
as well as incrusted ivory, shells and mother-of-pearl. His marquetry pieces are particularly colourful and rich.
They are often described as “wood paintings”.
André Charles Boulle is amongst the most prestigious marquetry artists of all times.
His works are of a richness and magnificence that still remain unequalled.

All art during the reign of Louis XIV was for the benefit of royal prestige.
The unity of style was obtained by means of a veritable dictatorship imposed by Charles Lebrun,
director of the Manufacture des Gobelins. It should be noted that, for the first time,
Paris became the artistic centre of Europe.
Since that time, and until today, marquetry has regularly appeared in every periodic style with
characteristics befitting each period.

For example, mention can be made of the process for preparing of veneers that appeared under Louis XV,
which consists of sawing a tree trunk obliquely, in order to obtain a veneer called “sole or sausage-quilt veneer”.

Today, marquetry can be manufactured industrially using computerized means (laser cutting, water jet, machining centre, etc.).

Fortunately, these modern techniques have not succeeded in equalling the precision of marquetry cut by hand and…
a machine will never know how to see, contemplate, choose a wood, a vein or a veneer texture in order to give the marquetry …

... a soul…

... the signature of the art of marquetry.


“Traditional cabinet”
with an inlaid clock movement.
Item realized by watchmaker Audemars Piguet
offered with the “Collection of excellence”.
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