1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Marquetry
MARQUETRY (Fr. marqueterie, from marqueter, to inlay, literally to mark, marquer), an inlay of ornamental woods, ivory, bone, brass and other metals, tortoise-shell, mother-of-pearl, &c., in which shaped pieces of different materials or tints are combined to form a design. It is a later development of the ornamental inlays of wood known by the name of Intarsia, and though in the main the latter was a true inlay of one or more colours upon a darker or lighter ground, while marquetry is composed of pieces of quite thin wood or other material of equal thickness laid down upon a matrix with glue, there are examples of Intarsia in which this mode of manufacture was evidently followed. For instance, the backs of the stalls in the cathedral of Ferrara show the perspective lines of some of the subjects traced upon the ground where the marquetry has fallen off, but none of the sinkings in the surface which would be there if the panels had been executed as true inlays. In the endeavour to gain greater relief, shading and tinting the wood were resorted to, the shading being generally produced by scorching, either with a hot iron or hot sand, and the tinting by chemical washes and even by the use of actual colour, but the result is usually hardly commensurate with the labour expended. A combination of tortoise-shell and metal, the one forming the ground and the other the pattern upon it, which may be classed as marquetry also appears in the 17th century. The subjects of the intarsiatori are generally arabesques or panels with elaborate perspectives, either of buildings or cupboards with different articles upon the shelves seen through half-open doors, which themselves are frequently of lattice-work delineated with extraordinary perfection, though figure subjects occur also. The later marqueteurs used a freer form of design for the most part, and scrolls and bunches of flowers appear in profusion, while if architectural forms occur they are generally in the shape of ruins amid landscape. The greater portion of the examples in England are importations, either from Holland (in which country very fine work was produced during the latter half of the 16th and 17th centuries) or from France. The reputation of the Dutch marqueteurs was so great that Colbert engaged two, named Pierre Gole and Vordt, for the Gobelins at the beginning of the 17th century. Jean Macé of Blois, the first Frenchman known to have practised the art, who was at work in Paris from 1644 (when he was lodged in the Louvre), or earlier, till 1672, as a sculptor and painter, learnt it in the Netherlands. His title was “menuisier et faiseur de cabinets et tableaux en marqueterie de bois”; but as early as 1576 a certain Hans Kraus had been called “marqueteur du roi.” Jean Macé’s daughter married Pierre Boulle, and the greatest of the family, André Charles Boulle (q.v.), succeeded to his lodging in the Louvre on his death in 1672. The members of this family are perhaps the best known of the French marqueteurs. Their greatest triumphs were gained in the marquetry of metal and tortoise-shell combined with beautifully chiselled ormulu mountings; but many foreign workmen found employment in France from the time of Colbert, and some of them rose to the highest eminence. The names of Roentgen, under whom the later German marquetry perhaps reached its highest point, Riesener and Oeben, testify to their nationality. A good deal of marquetry was executed in England in the later Stuart period, mainly upon long-case clocks, cabinets and chests of drawers, and it is often of real excellence. Marquetry in a shallower form was also extensively used in the latter part of the 18th century. The most beautiful examples of the art in Italy are mainly panels of choir stalls or sacristy cupboards, though marriage coffers were also often sumptuously decorated in this manner. With the increase in luxury and display in the 17th and 18th centuries in France and Germany cabinets and escritoires became objects upon which extraordinary talent and expenditure were lavished. In South Germany musical instruments, weapons and bride chests were often lavishly decorated with marquetry. The cabinets are of elaborate architectural design with inlays of ebony and ivory or with veneers of black and white, the design counterchanging so that one cutting produced several repeats of the same pattern in one colour or the other. In modern practice as many as four or even six thicknesses are put together and so cut. When all the parts have been cut and fitted together face downwards paper is glued over them to keep them in place and the ground and the veneer are carefully levelled and toothed so as to obtain a freshly worked surface. The ground is then well wetted with glue at a high temperature and the surfaces squeezed tightly together between frames called “cauls” till the glue is hard. There are several modes of ensuring the accurate fitting of the various parts, which is a matter of the first importance.