As a variation from the more usual spiral-turning, tables and cabinets began to be made, after about 1680, with legs in the form of an S or a double-C. These legs were usually inlaid on the outer edges, more rarely on the sides also. Figs. 373 and 374 show one of these tables, very fine in design, but with the marqueterie cut in a separate operation from its ground, and with the consequent tendency to slight inaccuracy which distinguishes the cutting of England from that of Holland. The table was formerly at Parham Park, the Sussex seat of Lord Zouche of Haryngworth. The veneers, especially those of the top, have bleached with the action of sunlight.
From the same collection, which, although not extensive, is remarkably rich in fine examples, comes also the charming desk, illustrated here in Fig. 375. The marqueterie is a closely designed intricate pattern of arabesques in light and dark woods, cut with great exactness, and in quarters, pieced together and banded with laurelled borders. Numbers of these desks, with sloping hinged tops supported on pin-hinged pull-out legs, were made during the latter years of the reign of William III, but they are exceedingly rare with marqueterie inlay. They were superseded, shortly before 1700, by the bureau with drawers below, of the kind shown in Fig. 383. The interiors of these bureaux and desks are nearly always as elaborate as the exterior surfaces, finely ornamented with marqueterie everywhere. They were pieces, evidently, only made for important patrons.
A much more delicate form of arabesque inlay, of black wood in holly, can be seen in the exceptionally fine table, Figs. 376 and 377. This represents in design and execution, the high - watermark of English marqueterie and shows to what perfection the art had been brought in England, within a narrow period of less than twenty years. It is not only the progression in point of technical excellence which is so remarkable; the growth of taste in the designer, the restraint and judicious assorting of the woods is no less noteworthy.
Fig. 387. Bureau Cabinet.
Veneered with elm burrs and inlaid with stringing and marqueterie.
See Fig. 388 for interior view.
Date about 1700.
C H. F. Kinderman, Esq.
Fig. 388. Another View Of The Cabinet, Fig. 387. - Showing the door open and the signature, "Samuel Bennett London Fecit" inlaid at the base of the pilasters. - The interior of the bureau is exceptionally choice. - C. H. F. Kinderman, Esq.
The last phase of English marqueterie which, however advanced it may be as an example of patient execution, yet indicates the decadence of the art itself, is the fine scrolled inlay of 1695-1700. It is in these pieces where we see the marqueterie cutter a supreme master of his craft. So delicate is some of this work that it is difficult to imagine that it is composed of the one wood, cut with a saw, and inlaid in another. The effect is rather that of wax-filled engraving. In Figs. 378 and 379 two views are given of a most remarkable china case, covered with finely-scrolled marqueterie on the outer and inner surfaces of the doors, on the ends and even on the rounded edges of the shelves, which have a sand-burnt laurelling cut in very stout veneers. The cornice and the base are beautifully carved, all from cross-grain walnut. The upper doors, inside and out, are veneered with closely pieced small laburnum oyster-pieces, the lower doors, where the surfaces are larger, being covered with walnut cut in the same way. The maker of this case has signed his name on the inside of the upper doors, "Samuel Bennett" on the one, and "Monmouth Square"1 on the other. The fronts of the drawers are rebated at the ends to cover the dividing styles, only two small beads being allowed to project to mark the division line between the three drawers. The carcase-work throughout is of pine, now painted a dark dull green. This is specifically a china cabinet, as the ends are glazed, and must have been made to contain some of the rare Oriental porcelains which were sparingly imported at this period.
Fig. 380 is a table of similar date and style, with the C-scrolled legs before referred to, surmounted by carved female heads supporting the framing of the table on tasselled cushions. These carved heads, the projecting rosettes at the bottom of the legs, and the feet, are all silvered, and may have been originally covered with a golden lacquer.
To what degree of elaboration this finely scrolled marqueterie was carried is shown by the cabinet, Fig. 381, and its interior, Fig. 382. Such lavish use of marqueterie veneers was by no means exceptional. The bureau, Figs. 383 and 384, is another instance, as every surface, including even the edges or fillets, has the same scrolled inlay. The carcase work of this piece is of quartered English oak. Both handles and escutcheons are original. This form of bureau, consisting of an upper part in the form of a desk with 'Overhanging ends, is of the seventeenth-century type. During the reign of Anne it was usual to make the entire end in the one piece. Occasionally a boldly-projecting moulding was mitred round the front and sides in place of this overhang. This is the alternative method of constructing these bureaux of the William III period. They are decorative pieces, whether in marqueterie or in walnut, and are now rare, especially when inlaid.
1 Monmouth Square was the old name for Soho Square. It contained the town house of the Duke of Monmouth until after the date of Sedgmoor.
The table, Figs. 385 and 386, may be accepted as the final development of this scrolled marqueterie of walnut in holly panels. A close inspection of the top in the illustration will show how the inlay has been designed to allow of cutting in four sections-at the one operation.
It is possible that architects, who were beginning to intrude into the sphere of furniture-designing, and whose influence became very marked in the years from 1720 to 1745, may have been responsible for the decline of marqueterie, with the creation of which they could have had little concern. The extraordinary bureau cabinet shown here in Figs. 387 and 388, which may be taken as bridging the marqueterie and plain walnut furniture of 1700, has enough of the classical element, in the scrolled pediment and the pilasters flanking the doors, to suggest that it is not entirely the unaided creation of the cabinet-maker. The veneer everywhere is a finely figured, or pollarded elm, of" a rich golden brown shade. The trussed corners of the "bombe" lower part, and the frieze and base of the upper stage, are the only portions which are decorated with marqueterie. On the inside of the door the pilasters of the outside are imitated in inlay and cross-banding, and on the bases again recurs the name of the Soho cabinet-maker, "Samuel, Bennett, London, Fecit," in the manner of the early makers of long-case clocks. Apart from its missing akroter, the cabinet is in fine preservation, and of superb quality. That a maker of thirty years previously would have opened a door in this manner, bringing with it the side pilasters and the frieze above, is doubtful. This detail appears to indicate the existence of a foreign element, in the designing of furniture of this date, of which many evidences will be found when the later furniture of the periods of Anne and the first two Georges is considered in a subsequent book. With this bureau cabinet, carrying us, as it does, to the close of the seventeenth century, this chapter can be brought to a logical conclusion, leaving the furniture of the eighteenth century, together with its woodwork, to form the subject-matter of another work.