Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Bellows

Bellows

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1860-1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Boulle marquetry of turtle shell and brass, on a ground of wood, the nozzle of gilded brass, the pleated section covered in blue silk velvet.

  • Museum number:

    215-1885

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Before the advent of central heating, warmth was provided by open fires, braziers or solid-fuel stoves in the main living rooms of a house. To maintain a fire all day demands a certain level of skill - knowing when to add more fuel, when to poke the fire and when to leave it alone - and a range of specialist tools. Bellows like these were designed to add oxygen to a smouldering fire, encouraging it to burn more fiercely.

The opulent decoration of these bellows is achieved using boulle marquetry, named after its most famous proponent, André Charles Boulle (1642–1732), cabinet-maker to Louis XIV of France, although these bellows were almost certainly made in France between 1860 and 1880. The technique of boulle involves cutting patterns out of a sandwich of layers of brass or pewter and layers of turtle shell, to create both a dark motif with a light background and a light motif with a dark background. The contrast created by using metal and turtle shell is heightened by staining the shell or, as in this case, backing it with a coloured foil (here red). Detail was added to both the metal and the turtle shell by engraving, which was often filled with black or white mastic (though this has rarely survived centuries of wear and polish). These bellows have the same design on both sides, but while the front has a tortoiseshell background with brass motifs, the back has a brass background with tortoiseshell motifs.

Physical description

A pair of bellows in boulle marquetry, with trapezoidal leaves. the nozzle of brass. The leaves are set back and front with the same design in premiere- and contre-partie marquetry, the turtle shell set against a red ground. The premiere-partie leaf is uppermost when the bellows are set flat. The pleated section of the bellows is covered in blue silk velvet with silver-gilt braid outlining the edges.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)

Date

1860-1880 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Boulle marquetry of turtle shell and brass, on a ground of wood, the nozzle of gilded brass, the pleated section covered in blue silk velvet.

Dimensions

Height: 70 mm, Width: 501 mm, Depth: 158 mm

Object history note

The bellows were acquired from Christie's at the Christopher Becket Denison sale, Christie's, London, 6 June - 15 July 1885, lot 2700, 'A PAIR OF BELLOWS, of red buhl, with chased ormolu borders'. No Registered Papers can be traced for this acquisition and no further information is recorded about them.

Descriptive line

A pair of bellows in boulle marquetry, with trapezoidal leaves. the nozzle of brass. The leaves are set back and front with the same design in premiere- and contre-partie marquetry, the turtle shell set against a red ground. The premiere-partie leaf is uppermost when the bellows are set flat. The pleated section of the bellows is covered in blue silk velvet with silver-gilt braid outlining the edges.

Production Note

These bellows are made with boulle marquetry in the style fashionable in France between 1700 and 1720.

Materials

Wood; Velvet; Brass; Gilt metal; Turtle shell

Techniques

Marquetry; Gilding; Joining

Categories

Household objects

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.