When looking for a master in detailed design on furniture, take a look back at the marquetry work of Andres Charles Boulle, a French designer who is heralded as one of the top, if not the top designer in the field of marquetry at his time. He has even had a style of decorative inlay named after him (Boulle).
For Boulle, it wasn’t so much that he was the first to come up with artistic ideas to inlay furniture, but it was that he was so intricately detailed in the designs that he inlaid and carved into modern furniture that he was well known. Though he was headquartered primarily in Paris, France, Boulle was called all over the country to utilize his skill in placing a veneer on furniture in a variety of materials, including tortoiseshell, pewter and brass.
Early on he spent a lot of time working at Versailles where he created the walls, the wood mosaic, paneling and other carved furniture such as the Commode with heavy etching, carving and ornate designs.
Born in 1942, Andres Charles Boulle was a master cabinetmaker by age 24 in 1666; only six years later at the age of 30, Boulle was lodging at the Palais du Louvre with the king’s blessing and he was also a personal designer to Louis XIV, or the King of France creating cabinets, sculptures and other modern artwork of the times. He produced furniture as well as gilded pieces using gold and gilt bronze chandeliers, lights, mounts and other furniture.
Despite his great creativity, he was a poor businessman and was even occasion ordered arrested for various credit issues.
Despite this, his unique skill in marquetry that allowed him to create unique modern furniture covered with a fanciful inlay of ivory or other material that helped create a beautiful picture or ornamentation.
Breuer, who was still influenced by the late Renaissance ornamented with an emphasis of what is now considered a Baroque stlye, ornamentation in bronze and ebony.
One of Boulle’s most significant pieces, widely known by many in the furniture design world is the Queen Anne chair, a wooden carved chair with a soft cushion. These chairs have carved shell or scroll motifs in different areas of the chair. Part of the Queen Anne style, its design was heavily influenced by Andre Charles Boulle who helped create the Baroque or Rococo style in France. This influence didn’t stay long as Oriental influences were coming in that were streamling and making furniture more modern. Andres Charles Boulle has examples of his work around the world, including some incredibly famous places such as Versailles, Fontainebleau, the Louvre, Windsor Castle among others.
Boulle set the trend for veneers using ebody and tortoiseshell, so much so that many fakes were created of the design. No matter how cheap it was, it was still confused for the real inlay. As Boulle’s skill increased be began adding other elements to make the work his own such as a gold leaf or other ornamented pieces such as feet, trims and various ornaments to help protect and to decorate further.
Very few people since have been able to accurately replicate the work of this great French artist and furniture designer. His contemporary, yet creative designs for living room, bedroom and other furniture were unmatched during his time, with few having the skill to compete.
Andres Charle Boulle was not only a great furniture designer, but he passed the skill onto his children who were also noted as great cabinetmakers and continued on the family design name.