Tray in piqué


Italie, Naples, circa 1740 Gold quilted tortoiseshell, engraved mother-of-pearl


Italy, Naples, circa 1740
Gold quilted tortoiseshell, engraved mother-of-pearl

Similar example:

– Unknown, Tray in piqué, acquired by Queen Mary in 1939, 18th century, England, Royal Collection Trust (inv. RCIN 22285)

This tray has a scalloped shape. Its decoration includes various scenes. On the left, a couple of Sinicizing characters with pointed hats is accompanied by a dog. On the right and on the background, various buildings form a landscape setting for this scene. The border is decorated at the four corners of shells accompanied by scrolls.

The piqué technique

This tray is decorated according to the piqué technique, which was developed at the end of the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century in Europe. This technique uses tortoiseshell as a support. To be worked, it is softened in boiling water and oil. The craftsman can then, without the need to glue them, apply the patterns in mother-of-pearl or gold. The result is a composition of three materials of great delicacy.
The piqué includes various techniques, several of which are used here. We find, in addition to the inlay of plated-shaped patterns, the piqué-point d’or. This means an application of very fine points of gold or mother-of-pearl, in dotted lines.
The shape of this tray is usual to the craftsmen making the piqués. Its large background allows them to display a rich iconography and historiated scenes. The gold is often used in a punctual way, to emphasize precise details, as here the hats, the basket, or the foliage.

This technique was very popular in the 18th century and followed the evolution of styles. It was adapted to a wide variety of objects, including tray, boxes, snuffboxes, and handles. It then aroused the enthusiasm of collectors, such as the Rothschilds or even Queen Mary, wife of George V, who owned a tray very similar to this one.


Alexis Kugel, Complètement piqué. Le fol art de l’écaille à la cour de Naples, Paris, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 2018.

Very good overall condition.

Additional information

Dimensions 19,2 × 15,5 cm