Casket with a landscape decor in tulipwood, sycamore and boxwood

France, Louis XVI period
Tulipwood, sycamore, boxwood


This casket opening by a top presents a landscape decor in a framework constituted of three friezes alternating clear and dark woods, underlined with threads. A village, associating a church, surmounted of three cross and a set of buildings amongst which we can distinguish in the center a low and large tower at the center of the composition and a higher one with a slotting forms the background of a scene near a river. On the foreground, turned towards this water scope bordered with trees, three horsemen approach to make their mounts drink while a bark seems to quit the rim, a standing character raising the sails while another is seated behind. A group of duck swimming on the river guides our eye towards the rim constituting the background where we can distinguish a silhouette of a man accompanied by a dog. Several trees came to punctuate the background of this landscape.
Each angle of the top is adorned of a rose in marquetry, which we can find on each front of the casket. On the front, an “à la Reine” marquetry constituted of fleurets framed by a lozenge latticework responds to the decor on the sides, embellished of a neoclassical vase adorned with garlands. The back of the casket is marquetered with flowers and leaves, the under of a lozenge and a leave in the center. The right front, movable, permits to uncover a secret drawer.

France, Louis XVI period
Tulipwood, sycamore, boxwood

Landscape marquetry
The marquetry finds its origin back to Egyptian antiquity, a time when some craftsmen already practiced the incrustation by placing pieces of bones, ivory, glass paste and stone in the wood but it is even more during the 14th century in Italy that the object in nude wood and the furniture received a decor of tiny, polygonal tesseræ of applied wood, bones or mother-of-pearl, called “à la chartreuse marquetry” (tarsia alla certosina). In parallel, appeared in Toscana, more precisely in Sienna, what will later be designated under the name of “pictural marquetry” (tarsi pittorica), searching to imitate the painting by playing with different colors of wood and by executing ornamental and figurative decorations after a cardboard. Since the time, the landscape was present as on the stalls of the Duomo of Sienna, realized between 1503 and 1505 by Fra Giovanni Verona, where the antique landscapes were omnipresent.
At the end of the 16th century, we also started to paste on the ordinary wood structure, oak or fir, of fine ebony leaves of wood, thus giving birth to cabinetmaking (furniture receiving a veneer), then distinguishing itself from carpenting (where the wood is plain). The landscape is here again present, forming the frame of biblical or mythological scenes, as on the cabinet’s doors of the Musée du Louvre (inv. MR R 62 and OA 6629).
Playing with the severity of this wood, the cabinetmakers imagined, in order to brighten up the aspect, to add to it other materials, like copper, bronze, silver, gold, ivory, hardstone mosaics, cameo and diverse attached stones. Under the reign of Louis XIV, the cabinetmakers perfected their art. The marquetry with floral motifs, on a tortoiseshell background, adorns numerous luxury furniture, and the flower marquetry was born around the mid-17th century. Two techniques are thus currently practiced: flower marquetry and Boulle marquetry, cabinetmaker having excelled in the technique of the marquetry associating tortoiseshell, brass and ebony to the point of leaving it his name while he was not the inventor of the technique and did not have an exclusivity.
The first half of the 18th century saw blooming friezing marquetry and marquetry playing with backgrounds The landscape was then less present, leaving way to floral and geometrical motifs, like here on the back and on the different sides of this casket, which associates natural flower compositions and neoclassical vocabulary, in particular vases on the side panels.
It will then reappear at the end of the Rocaille period and under Louis XVI in the cabinetmakers’ workshops such as Pierre Roussel’s, Charles Topino’s or Nicolas Petit’s.
If this casket is not stamped, its top is characteristic of what proposed these cabinetmakers who then declined landscapes according to several large themes such as Chinese scenes, those inspired by Antiquity, pastorals, cinegenic scenes or village scenes The panel mixes here picturesque scene at the rim of a river and description of a village in the background. Revealing of the taste of the clientele for the picturesque, it already testifies of a stammering romanticism. Relying on engraved sources, these cabinetmakers imagined then true painting playing with the colors of different wood species, some which could be colored, shaded by being slightly burned, then engraved to underline the details. It his however often difficult to find the source on which were based the latter, we can then quote the names of Boucher or Pillement. The presence of neoclassical vases on the sides of this casket permits to confirm its datation, during the Louis XVI period.

Sylvain Barbier Sainte Marie, Charles Topino, Paris, Les éditions de l’Amateur, 2005.
Claude Bouzin, Meuble et artisanat, du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Les éditions de l’Amateur, 2003.
Anne Droguet, Nicolas Petit, Paris, Les éditions de l’Amateur, 2001.
Patricia Lemonnier, « Pierre Roussel, ébéniste et marchand », L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, n° 230, November 1989, pp. 40-45.
François Quéré, Les Roussel, une dynastie d’ébénistes au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Édition Faton, 2012.

Good overall condition

Additional information

Dimensions 18,7 × 26,5 × 15,1 cm