The art and craft of marquetry began in ancient times. Even then the inlaying of pieces of wood, stone, shell, bone, ivory and other exotic materials into carved out recesses (held in place by glues made from heated bones or animals skins) was appreciated. I find it fascinating that in the 17th century the workmen’s ability to cut thin sheets of these materials was greatly improved with the development of the fretsaw, the blades for which originally came from clock springs, which used the best and most uniform steel then available.
Marquetry schools then developed in France, Germany and Holland, although marquetry furniture was reserved mainly for royalty through the 18th century. This type of furniture became increasing popular in the 19th century, but interest in it faded by the middle of the 20th.
This small table was made from mahogany with inlays of boxwood, ebony and other exotic woods. It was exceptionally well laid out and shows a great sensitivity to composition, form and artistry. The individual motifs, such as birds, flowers, leaves, scrolls and jardinières, are all wonderfully depicted and put together in such a way that leaves no space undecorated. The design is mesmerizing in its intricacy.
Both flaps show a large jardinière with flowers cascading over the tops and flowing down the middle and spaced between elaborate scrolls with both leaves and flowers. There is a pair of birds nestled into the space beneath the flowers.
Around the edge of each flap and on the top is a border of ebony and boxwood cut on the diagonal so that it has a rope-like appearance. It was an effective method of framing the composition. On the top is a narrow, rectangular piece of mahogany that is inlaid with a central shield-shaped motif surrounded by leaves and scrolls. There is a diamond design placed in the center of the shield to further enrich the pattern. It has the same border of boxwood and ebony on the diagonal surrounding the central pattern.
The table also boasts the added attraction of two small, narrow drawers with brass handles on either side. On the two legs that extend to support the leaves when open are small wheels.
When the leaves are fully opened, it is a good size for use as a coffee or small drinks table next to a chair. In any case, it would be a charming addition to any interior and looks much older than it really is. It dates to the mid-20th century, although it appears as if made in the 19th century.
It is in excellent condition, with a small amount of crazing in the wood in a few places, which helps add to its antique character. I have had the table professionally French polished.
With the leaves down, the top measures 22-1/4 inches wide and 7-3/8 inches deep. Fully extended with the leaves up, the top is 31-1/4 wide inches by 22-1/4 inches. The height is 22-3/4 inches.
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