The Renaissance has been divided by art scholars into three periods: Early
Renaissance, with the development of architecture, perspective, humanism
and liberal arts; High Renaissance, with the works of masters like Leonardo,
Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Bramante at its peak, and Late Renaissance,
from 1525 to 1600, when no one  central style or trend could be defined until
the apparition of the Baroque period. The span of 75 years in Europe gave rise
to religious movements as important as the Protestant Reformation, and
political changes from Princedom toward state centralized power and
colonization of overseas lands. At that time, art wasn't uniform in every
European region; Italy was the center of humanistic trends as well as Nordic
countries developed its own styles, notable for its differences in the imagery
and techniques; England and Spain followed, as France had wonderful
examples of innovation. Being intarsia a special decorative technique, wasn't
alien to this tendencies of the artistic world. Anyhow, it seems that decorative
or art works in wood were out of fashion by the end of the XVI century, due in
part  to the changes in the art market. Churches were not longer a stable
clientele because Protestantism and Calvinism had changed the practices of
religion to an almost spartan landscape notwithstanding the advances of the
Counter-Reformation. Palaces turned to other decorative schemes, principally
following the new architectural trends; art was no longer exclusively the result
of patronage or commissions; the growing population that spread all over
Europe was able to access secular bibliography and its tastes changed. While
Baroque signaled the end of the Renaissance, science had leaped to new
horizons and the political reforms of the Modern World were almost there. By
the middle of the 1600s, the European monarchies had established the
"absolutism" as doctrine and fact of the government.
Then, intarsia in its varied forms became "the" conventional decorative  
ingredient in furniture for the Royal houses, especially on the "Louises" period.

The Louis XIII style (1610–1643) or Louis Treize, especially influenced the
visual and decorative arts. Its distinctness as a period in the history of French
art has much to do with his mother and regent, Marie de' Medici, who imported
mannerism from Italy. The Louis XIII architecture was equally influenced by
Italian styles and the furniture of the period was typically large and austere.

Under Louis XIV (1638-1715), who reigned for 72 years and 110 days, the
Baroque as it was practiced in Italy was not in French taste. The monarch  
launched a vast program designed for the glorification of France and his name -
Le Roi-Soleil- transforming the Palace of Versailles, initially a tiny hunting lodge
built by his father, into a marvelous palace for fêtes and parties that, in 1682,
was transformed into the official residence of the king. In this period, the
minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert established royal control over artisanal
production, so France would no longer purchase luxury goods from abroad, but
would, herself, set the standard for quality. Probably that trend gave rise to the
French schools of marquetry.
Furnishings and interior designs from this period are referred to as Louis XIV-
style; that is characterized by weighty brocades of red and gold, thickly gilded
plaster molding, large sculpted sideboards, and heavy marbling.
The Louis XV (1710-1744) style or Louis Quinze was a French Rococo style in
the decorative arts that was characterised by supreme craftsmanship and the
integration of the arts of cabinetmaking, painting, and sculpture. French
furniture of the period Louis XV—which typically came in two sets, summer
and winter—was highly ornamental and designed to mesh with the rest of the
home decor. Themes from Orient and fables were common thematic
expressions, and exotic woods and marbles were employed to further the
effect. "The full range of richness in decorative techniques is represented in
this period—superb carving, ornamentation in all sorts of metal, inlaid work in
woods, metal, mother-of-pearl, and ivory, as well as the pinnacle of
achievement in lacquered chinoiserie" (definition of Encyclopedia Britanica)
Among the ébénistes who served under Louis XV were Jean-François Oeben
(with his intricate floral marquetry and ingenious mechanical specialities),
Vandercruse Lacroix, Gilles Joubert, Antoine Gaudreau and Martin Carlin.
Stamped by Oeben, a "Table à la Bourgogne" (desk with drawers which can be
mechanically raised from the back section of the piece)
C. 1760, can be seen at the
Louvre Museum
The site of Cristina Alvarez Magliano
Italian Chest (XV Century, partial) Walnut,
marquetry - H. 81 cm; W. 66 cm
This piece is in the Museum of Louvre under the
# OA 3122, not in exhibition. Painting and
Tapestry were much more in fashion during this
Writing-desk - Paris, circa 1680
Fir frame, walnut and pewter marquetry,
kingwood veneer (on the back)
In the Louvre Museum, loaned by the Musée
National du Moyen Age-Thermes de Cluny.
Dept.of Decorative Arts, Louvre       CL
Medal cabinet with the royal cypher -second third of the 17th century-
Ebony, Brazilian rosewood, pear tree H. 44.40 cm; W. 58.50 cm; D. 35.50 cm
Department of Decorative Arts Louvre Museum-   OA 11852
Observe the drawers and the layout of the tiers for the medals.
Louis XIV ordered the Manufacture des
Gobelins to open a hardstone mosaic
workshop to compete with Florentine master
mosaicists. The tabletop held in the Louvre
was made in the Gobelins workshop. The
mosaic forms the royal crown and coat of
arms. This table, particularly the realism of the
birds and landscapes, reflects the sheer
quality of
work being done in Paris by
lapidaries (stone carvers).
Commode (1737)Stamped by B. V. R. B.
(Bernard II van Risenburgh) Oak frame; fruitwood
(cherry-wood?) veneer; Japanese lacquer; Vernis
Martin; gilded bronze; Anpewter (or Sarrancolin)
marble H. 0.85 m; W. 1.27 m; D. 0.61 m
This commode is the first recorded item of lacquer
furniture that can be dated with certainty, the first to
enter the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne and the
first to be purchased from Hébert, who
subsequently became a regular supplier.
Department of Decorative Arts of the Louvre
Museum-       OA 11193
André-Charles BOULLE (Paris, 1642 – Paris, 1732) was certainly working at
this time in Paris. Many pieces in the Louvre Museum have been attributed to
him or his workshop. According to
Barbier Muriel "From 1672, André Charles Boulle
enjoyed the privilege of having a workshop at the Louvre, where he brought the technique named
after him, but which he did not invent, to its most accomplished heights. In the seventeenth century,
Boulle was highly successful, delivering many pieces to the Royal Furniture Repository. This
monumental wardrobe is built of a single chest, a technique pioneered by Boulle, and is one of the
most beautiful pieces in the Louvre's collections."
No doubt that these consoles and wardrobes are at the maximun peak of the
Louise XV Style, although some of them were made before, during LeRoi-Soleil
times (1643 - 1715) Photos from The
Louvre Museum (2010)
Other famous names were Jean-Henri RIESENER (Gladebeck, near Hessen,
1734 – Paris, 1806); Jean-François LELEU  (1729 – Paris, 1807) and  
Christophe WOLFF (1765), whose works are in the same rococo style that,
eventually, evolved into the Louis XVI- Marie Antoinette smaller, intimate,
furnishing. Reisener dictated the styles; he was among the designers of the
most notable cabinet work. "It was in the Decorative arts that the Rococo
flourished first and foremost...French cabinetmakers known as ébénistes
helped to bring about the revolution in interior decor by introducing new
materials and techniques. Many of these upstarts came originally from Holland,
Flanders, Germany, and even Italy" (Janson, History of Art, sixth ed.). As  
Louis XV had been linked to Rococo although the style was created before he
was born, the same happened with his son and the illusion that the last king of
France reacted against the excesses of overdecorating. From about 1750 to
1850, various styles and schools overlapped. Rococo, Enlightenment,
Neoclassicism and Romanticism were more or less contemporaneous, though
the American and French Revolution signaled the beginning of the modern era.
Jean-Henri RIESENER- Bureau à cylindre- 1784
Oak and deal frame; veneer of sycamore, kingwood and rosewood;
polychrome wood marquetry; gilded bronze. Four gilded bronze low-reliefs:
“Music” (twice), “Painting” and “Sculpture”; the trophy on the middle of the
cylinder is inlaid with the attributes of Poetry. Made for the Cabinet Intérieur
of Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Appartement at the Palais des Tuileries
Paris c. 1780 - Secrétaire en
armoire (fall-front desk)
Rose-wood and violet-wood
marquetry; gilded bronze; white
Musee du Louvre (not in exhibition)
Which was the technique used during this period? The complexity of the
designs and the variety of materials, plus the high productivity of the
workshops suggest that something had been created to easy the cutting of
repetitive images. The Italians in the XI Century had invented the '
tarsia a
for bandings and frames -probably influenced by Islamic works with
recurrent geometrical forms-  as seen in the Studiolo. They formed blocks out
of different pieces of contrasting woods glued together, that were then sliced
perpendicularly to obtain several 'bands' of the same design. No doubt the
French workshops used the same technique. The
'tarsia a incastro' was also of
Italian origin. Two layers of contrasting veneers were staked together and
glued at the borders, the design was glued on top, then both layers were cut
together. Separating the layers and interchanging the images -light and dark-
they had two contrasting designs. Probably like this:

Boulle was a master in the use of this technique; his calling card was the
mixing of wood and metal veneer, usually, but not limited to, bronze (see
images above). He was so successful that the style was later recognized as
his (Boulle Style) and is still used in modern marquetry. It is a this time
(XVII/XVIII Centuries) that the traditional inlaid method gave place to a more
economical use of veneers, especially on flat surfaces, and less work, allowing
the craftsman to cut all the pieces until the whole image was formed and then
glued over the substrate like one complete piece. And that is "marquetry".  
All rights reserved to Cristina Alvarez Magliano ©2013
To Art Nouveau and Art Deco
Back to the Gubbio Studiolo
from this           to this