Gorgeous antique French Napoleon III era 13.5" boulle inkstand or desk top double inkwell, ornate brass & faux tortoise shell 'Boulle' inlays in a unique tray shape with eagle or bird topped inkwells, center stamps compartment and wonderful condition! Beautiful, a few small flaws but the inlay is spectacular. The base or stand measuring an expansive 13.5" x 8.25" and entirely covered in boulle. The inkwells also unique in the Napoleonic style with heavy bronze or brass eagle/bird figures on top. One of two boulle double inkwell desk top pieces that we're adding today so be sure to browse some while you're with us. Enjoy!
The earliest that we can date the conception of the inkwell is with the Ancient Egyptians, where members of wealthy or upper-class families hired scribes to write for them. These scribes used small ink palettes housed in pieces of stone with round hollows for each separate colour of ink. Over time, these palettes became larger pieces of stone or clay, and gradually were developed into being containers when a stopper was added to protect and add to the longevity of the ink. In Europe, prior to the sixteenth century, a scribe or scrivener would correspond using a quill pen and ink on behalf of aristocracy, as writing was considered to be a lowly task. As the art of writing travelled across the world animal horns began to be used as the material for making ink containers. To begin with, these inkwells were fairly basic and designed purely for purpose, with little ornamentation. The decorative inkwells were introduced during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Gold and silver inkwells began to make an appearance. During the Baroque period, excessive ornamentation was common throughout Western Europe, as was the fashion within most silverware, jewellery and clothing at this time. The inkwell was then further developed as the portable inkwell was devised around the time of the American Civil war, so that soldiers could carry them easily and write their correspondence from the battlefield. Affluent travellers used inkwells specifically designed to be compact, housed within boxes which also held other writing equipment such as quills, ink, paste papers (used to seal letters) and a sander (to hold a fine sand, sprinkled to prevent ink smearing), medications and toiletries. Such boxes were known as compendiums. The invention of the typewriter in the 1870s spelled the demise of the inkwell, along with the first fully functional and reliable fountain pen being patented by Lewis Waterman in 1884. With increasingly practical fountain pens increasingly being produced in the twentieth century, the demand for inkwells fell to the point of obscurity, now being regarded as a rarity which is only owned by collectors. This piece being a wonderful example of the opulence of some writing related pieces, exceptional and they really do make the finest decorative accents!
Very good condition! There are two spots of brass missing from the sides of the convex pen tray in front and some damage to the stamps box lid. Also a small brass piece missing just in front of the left side inkwell area. We sometimes find these boulle pieces with a lot of crazing/cracking to the shell but none here, as you can see. No chips to the inkwells that I can see, both heavy and sold, but the brass/bronze tops appear to have been re-affixed to them. There is faux shell encircling the base platform, hard to see but it raises the shaped tray off of the ground about .75" or so and the shell is missing from the back there (burgundy leatherette there so it's not even all that noticeable). There is, however, a chip to the rim of the center stamps or nib brush box. See pictures for all measurements.
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Antique French sterling silver, Georgian jewelry, sewing, Black Forest, etc 17th to 19th c. European
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