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Cabinet

Cabinet

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1780-1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Weisweiler, Adam, born 1744 - died 1820 (made)
    Weisweiler, Adam, born 1744 - died 1820 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Veneered in four-part boulle marquetry (turtle shell, brass, pewter and horn) on a carcase of pine, and set with gilt brass mounts; the top set with a slab of Spanish brocatelle marble; the drawer carcases of walnut.

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    1118:3-1882

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This cabinet is an example of the high regard in which boulle marquetry continued to be held in France thoughout the 18th century. The technique, which involves cutting patterns in multiple layers of turtle shell, brass and other materials (here pewter and horn) got its name from Louis XIV’s cabinet maker, André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732). He was not the only, but the best-known practitioner of the technique, which allowed different patterns to be created by setting, for example, turtle shell into a brass ground, or vice-versa. The outside of the cabinet shows première-partie designs (in brass or pewter on turtle shell), while the inside shows contre-partie designs, in which the ground is made of the metal.

Originally, this cabinet would have formed the upper part of a tall cabinet-on-stand, almost certainly made in Boulle’s own workshop. At the end of the 18th century, the cabinet maker Adam Weisweiler created a more fashionable, low piece of furniture, using the cabinet section, and placing on top a richly coloured marble slab.

Physical description

A low cabinet in boulle marquetry of turtle shell, brass and pewter, with gilt-brass mounts, the front set with a single door enclosing four drawers, below a single, disguised drawer, the front set with a circular gilt-brass medallion with a profile head of the French king Henri IV (probably added when the cabinet was adapted by Weisweiler). Each of the sides is set with a bank of four drawers. The cabient is raised on four spiral feet in gilt brass and the top is set with a slab of Spanish brocatelle marble. The exterior of the cabinet is set with première-partie marquetry (of metals inset into turtle shell) and the inside with contre-partie marquetry (of turtle shell inset into metal).

The cupboard is raised on a low plinth, above spiral feet in gilt brass, the blocks above the feet set on both visible faces with square paterae in gilt brass, the plinth veneered in ebony with brass stringing and set with a brass band along the upper edge. Bands of formal foliate ornament in gilt brass run along the top edge of the plinth , around the inside of the framing on the front and sides, and along the narrow frieze section above the cupboard, the front of which is set centrally with a short framing band of boulle ornament in première partie, with addorsed E-shapes in horn, set against a pigment (possibly originally blue).

The front is set with a breakfront, central panel, framed in gilt brass, the lower edge of the framing raised on tow lion-paw feet, ending above in acanthus scrolls up the sides and along the lower edge of the frame, the centre of this set with the mask of a woman. The top corners of the frame are outset, with gilt-brass mounts of wreathed heads of zephyrs (their cheeks plump from blowing the west wind) and between them, set centrally, is a circular medallion with the profile head of Henri IV of France, draped with laurel pendants that hang down to either side and drop below the gilt-brass plinth on which the medallion sits. Within this frame, the area below the plinth is a cupboard door, with concave edges, the whole set with boulle marquetry of brass and pewter on a ground of turtle shell set against a dark pigment, the design centreing on an inverted lyre shape. To either side of the breakfront section, the narrow side panels are set symmetrically with scrolled designs of boulle marquetry, with pendant motifs of wreaths and husks. The top and side edges of the front are framed in band of formal ornament in contre-partie boulle on a ground of brass, of the same design as the central band in premiere-partie at frieze level.

Each side is set with four drawer fronts, with a design of scrolls in première-partie boulle marquetry. The interior of the cabinet, behind the central cupboard door, is set with four smaller drawers, the fronts veneered with contre-partie marquetry on a ground with a central panel of brass flanked by pewter, the design showing tight scrolls. The inside of the cupboard door is also veneered with contre-partie marquetry, with turtle shell set against a dark pigment, in the ground of brass, in a design of complex cartouches and framing elements.

The top is edged with a gilt-brass moulding of twisted ribbon and flower heads, within which sits the slab of Spanish brocatelle marble, the edges plainly cut.

The carcase of the cabinet is in pine. The drawers are of walnut.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1780-1790 (made)

Artist/maker

Weisweiler, Adam, born 1744 - died 1820 (made)
Weisweiler, Adam, born 1744 - died 1820 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Veneered in four-part boulle marquetry (turtle shell, brass, pewter and horn) on a carcase of pine, and set with gilt brass mounts; the top set with a slab of Spanish brocatelle marble; the drawer carcases of walnut.

Marks and inscriptions

A WEISWEILER
Mark of Adam Weisweiler, stamped twice on the framing under the marble slab.

Dimensions

Height: 103 cm, Width: 77.5 cm, Depth: 49.5 cm

Object history note

This cabinet was in the collection of John Jones, who bequeathed his collection to the South Kensington Museum (the predecessor of the V&A) at his death in 1882. It was one of his last purchases, having been bought from a Mr Baring for £3000.

Historical context note

This cabinet must have been made in 1690-1700, almost certainly in the workshop of André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), cabinet-maker to Louis XIV of France. It would have formed the upper part of a tall cabinet-on-stand. A drawing of a similar cabinet, with its stand, is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In the 1780s it was adapted to a modern, low, furniture form by the cabinet maker Adam Weisweiler. It was common in the 18th century for the highly valued boulle marquetry to be re-set in this way, just as jewels or Asian porcelain was given modern mounts.

Descriptive line

A low cabinet in boulle marquetry of turtle shell, brass and pewter, with gilt-brass mounts, the front set with a single door enclosing four drawers, below a single, disguised drawer, the front set with a circular gilt-brass medallion with a profile head of the French king Henri IV. EAch of the sides is set with a bank of four drawers. The cabient is raised on four spiral feet in gilt brass and the top is set with a slab of Spanish brocatelle marble.

Labels and date

[Label text 1971, by Peter Thornton]
Cabinet
French (Paris); late 17th century, with later alterations carried out in about 1780
Pine, veneered with boulle-work marquetry; gilt-bronze mounts
Marble slab (Spanish Brocatelle)

The original cabinet may well be the work of André-Charles Boulle (d. 1732), the famous royal cabinet-maker. A drawing for such a cabinet attributed to him is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Like the cabinet in the drawing, this piece probably had a tall stand in the same style. It was provided with a new and much lower stand and with a marble top in about 1780, presumably by Adam Weisweiler whose name is stamped twice on the wooden additions under the slab. This was one of the last purchases made by John Jones; he paid ‘nearly £3,000’ for this cabinet in the year before his death in 1882. It had for many years belonged to a Mr Baring.

Jones Collection
Museum No. 1118-1882 []
Cabinet
About 1700
Probably by André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732)

France (Paris)
Carcase: softwood with oak and walnut
Veneer: boulle marquetry of turtle-shell, ebony, brass, pewter and horn with coloured paper
Mounts: gilded brass
Top: Spanish Brocatello or Tortosa marble

Restored probably around 1770 by Étienne Levasseur
Altered around 1780 by Adam Weisweiler

Bequeathed by John Jones
Museum no. 1118-1882

The technique of boulle marquetry typically combines turtle-shell and metal. The materials are too hard to cut with a knife, but with a fretsaw a marqueteur can cut several layers in a stack simultaneously. This produces curvilinear designs in two or three materials that can be glued onto a wooden substrate. André-Charles Boulle was a leading exponent of the technique. [01/12/2012]

Production Note

This cabinet was adapted from a tall cabinet-on-stand, to create a low piece of furniture which suited the late-eighteenth century taste for decorative furniture at dado height. It demonstrates the continuing enthusiasm for the marquetry of turtle shell and metals that derived its name from Louis XIV's cabinet maker, André-Charles Boulle. Pieces were regularly dismembered and the marquetry used to create pieces in a more up-to-date style.

Materials

Turtle shell; Brass; Pewter; Horn; Marble; Pine; Walnut

Techniques

Cabinet-making; Veneering; Marquetry

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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