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Charles André Boulle History


Baroque Era Furniture Artist

Boulle was a French cabinetmaker, the master of a distinctive style of furniture, much imitated, for which his name has become a synonym.

Prior to 1666 Boulle was awarded the title of master cabinetmaker; in 1672 the king granted him the royal privilege of lodging in the Palais du Louvre. In the same year, he achieved the title of cabinetmaker and sculptor to Louis XIV, king of France. This new title allowed him to produce furniture as well as works in gilt bronze such as chandeliers, wall lights, and mounts. Although strict guild rules usually prevented craftsmen from practicing two professions simultaneously, Boulle's favored position allowed him protected status and exempted him from these statutes.

Thereafter he devoted himself to creating costly furniture and objects with brass inlays, tortoiseshell and inlays of pewter for the king and court. Boulle's pieces, having in general the character of Louis XIV and régence design, were built for the immense formal rooms of the period.

Christened by his contemporaries as "the most skillful artisan in Paris," André-Charles Boulle was a master of marquetry who specialized in the inlaying of ebony with precious woods and mother-of-pearl. Large areas were covered with tortoiseshell, inlaid with arabesques of gilded brass. He added splendid bas-relief compositions, as well as sculptured rosettes, masks, and acanthus scrolls, all in gilded bronze.

These Boulle-made original pieces were considered highly fashionable and were prized in France in the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century. Given their popularity, in the last half of the 19th century, modern machine techniques were utilized, enabling the creation of large quantities of furniture in the Boulle style.

Superb examples of his art exist at Versailles, Fontainebleau, and the Louvre and in England at Windsor Castle and in the Wallace Collection, London. The title cabinetmaker to the king passed to his four sons, Jean Philippe, Pierre Benoît, André Charles, and Charles Joseph.

 Many of his designs are illustrated in a book of engravings published around 1720.

Antique Clock Guy Reference Library

 Following are a couple of examples you will enjoy:

Commode, ca. 1710-32
Walnut veneered with ebony and marquetry
of engraved brass and tortoiseshell, gilt-bronze
mounts, verd antique marble top



Table, c.1680
Oak veneered with ebony, tortoiseshell, pewter, brass,
ivory, horn, various stained and natural woods; gilt bronze mounts

Clock with Pedestal (Pendule sur gaine), ca. 1690
Movement by Jacques III Thuret (French, 1669-1738)
or more likely his father, Isaac II Thuret (French, 1630-1706)
Case by André-Charles Boulle after designs supplied by Jean Berain (French, 1640-1711)

Case: oak, with brass and engraved pewter inlay on a
tortoiseshell ground, and gilt-bronze mounts;
Dial: gilt brass with enamel numerals;
Movement: brass and steel



Clock With Pedestal
Attributed to André-Charles Boulle
movement by Antoine Gaudron, clockmaker; Paris, c.1690

Oak veneered with tortoiseshell, pewter, brass, ebony,
and ebonized fruitwood; gilt bronze mounts


Writing Table
Attributed to the workshop of André-Charles Boulle, c.1725
Oak and pine veneered with satiné rouge and amaranth;
gilt-bronze mounts; modern leather top



This article incorporates information from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
and The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05;
some photos from Getty Museum.
For further information on Charles André Boulle, click here

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