The Ultimate Example of Prodigious Architectural Marquetry

November 8th, 2011 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
Gilbert Secrétaire

Gilbert Secrétaire

Our collection is so extensive that it can, at times, be overwhelming to try to be knowledgeable about every piece.

Today, I would like to tell you about an unforgettable treasure of the neoclassical period in France: a Secrétaire by André Louis Gilbert.

While Louis XV’s taste is remembered as Rococo, Louis XVI preferred a much more clean and linear style, as inspired by the Neoclassical movement that generated a lot of interest in European Courts. The resurgence of classical taste was incited by the discovery of antique Roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-18th century.

Among the most talented Cabinet-makers of his time, Gilbert decorated his pieces with superb architectural inlaid designs. While most cabinet makers incorporated mostly flat designs, comprised of musical, floral or geometric motifs, Gilbert truly embraced the potential of marquetry to create three-dimensional scenes in a two-dimensional medium, just as artists would do with paint. Gilbert paid particular attention to the issues of composition and perspective in his designs. And they had so much detail! But what truly set his marquetry apart from his contemporaries was the timely incorporation of idealized Neoclassical landscapes, and it is particularly fitting for these scenes to be housed in a piece of furniture that embodies Louis XVI style. It is simply spectacular!

Of course, this piece has many other fascinating features, as it is a museum-quality piece.

Nonetheless, it is apparent that Gilbert invested all of his talent into making this secrétaire truly exceptional. Might I mention that the marquetry includes rare amaranth wood and mother of pearl?

A few years later, Gilbert would discontinue his work as a cabinet maker to take part in the storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution in general…

Life is short, why not own the very best?

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