Fig. 366. The Cabinet, Fig. 365, Shown Open.
Fig. 368. The Top Of The Chest, Fig. 367.
The chest, Fig. 357, which has the appearance of having lost its under stage of legs and stretcher, is veneered with transverse sections of olive and lignum, with a geometrical inlay of box-wood stringing or lines. These lines are gauged to an even thickness by the use of a tool known as a " string-gauge," a small appliance of wood, in shape something like a large tuning-fork. Between the prongs, inside, two small cutters are secured, the one being made adjustable for varying thicknesses of lines. The strings are cut somewhat larger than is actually required, with a cutting-gauge instead of a saw, and they are then drawn between the two cutters until they are reduced to an uniform thickness. These lines, when used in straight lengths, are inserted after the surface is veneered, channels being made with an ordinary movable-headed gauge, furnished with a cutter corresponding to the thickness of the line itself. The stringing is then brushed with glue, rubbed in with the tail-end of an ordinary hammer, and mitred at the corners with a chisel. With stringing such as in the panel-borders of Fig. 358, for example, this method is not practicable, and here the panels have to be cut by the marqueterie cutter, together with the veneered ground, and the lines bent round the panels when the entire drawer front is pieced together. In the case of ivory lines, to prevent breakage, it is usual to soak them in acetic acid for several days before using.
Had marqueterie originated as a wood-working art in this country, it would be interesting to have traced its development, both technically and decoratively. It comes to England, however, full-blown, as it were, and the variations which do actually take place are merely due to change of fashion or taste, and are, therefore, of little or no use in establishing positive dates. There is one noticeable evolution which takes place after the English craftsman attains a certain degree of skill in the cutting of marqueterie, and that is in the direction of the delicate scrolled inlay, usually of dark wood in a ground of holly or sycamore, the taste for which does not appear to have arisen (that is, if we are to suppose the supply, in this instance, did not create the demand) before the years from 1695 to 1703.
Fig. 369. Walnut Table. - Inlaid with marqueterie. - Height, 2 ft. 5 ins.; [width, 3 ft. 1 in.; depth, 2 ft. 0 1/2 in Date about 1675-80. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 370. The Top Of The Table, Fig. 369. - In placing the examples illustrated in the following pages, therefore, in some order, it must be pointed out that the dates given under each are those only of the inception of the fashions of the various styles, but the nationality of the actual makers, and even of the country of origin itself, is frequently very questionable.
There is very little doubt that some of this marqueterie furniture, especially that where the inlay is composed of the leaves and flowers of jessamine cut from white and green-stained ivory, is as early, in England, as the later years of the reign of Charles II. Fig. 359 is a cabinet which may easily date some years prior to 1680 rather than after, and when it is remembered that oak furniture, as we have seen, was being extensively produced at this period, it is difficult to understand the fashion for the sombre oak running concurrently with this gaudy inlay, other than on the hypothesis that the latter had to be imported from the other side of the North Sea, and therefore was not available to the same degree. The inlay here, apart from its Dutch design, is also sand-burnt on the laurelled bandings surrounding the doors, which indicates a device which could hardly have been known to an English craftsman at this early date. There is a mechanical excellence in the cutting and laying of the veneers, and also a tradition, if only in the possession of the necessary designs, in tracings and prickings, which must render the nationality of this early marqueterie very suspect. Considering the close inter-association which existed between England and Holland at this and subsequent periods, the question of nationality is not so serious as one would imagine, as we know that timber and veneers were freely imported from the Continent during the latter half of the seventeenth century, and numbers of Dutch woodworkers settled in this country, especially in East Anglia and the counties bounded by the Dover Straits or the estuary of the Thames. Canvey Island was, until recent years, almost entirely a Dutch colony, situated in the mouth of our chief river and within a few miles of the Metropolis.
Fig. 371. Chest Of Drawers On Stand. - Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. Date about 1630. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 372. Chest Of Drawers. - Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. - C. 1700. Sir Leicester Harmsworth, Bart.