The History of Boulle Work
The technique of veneering a combination of metal and horn, tortoiseshell, ivory, or mother-of-pearl onto a wood substrate was a highly refined method of surface decoration employed during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Europe. The procedure, which is a type of marquetry, was first developed in medieval Italy, where a combination of copper and the shell of the greenback turtle were used, primarily in the decoration of architectural forms. It was in France, during the reign of Louis XIV, that the technique was refined to its most artistic levels. By the seventeenth century, artisans such as Pierre Golle (France), J. D. Sommer (Germany), and Gerreit Jensen (England) contributed to making the practice accepted as a technique for decorating furniture. However, the French ébéniste André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732), is recognized as the principle and most accomplished practitioner. As a result of his prolific and inspired work, the terms “boulle work” or “boulle marquetry” are used to describe this type of furniture decoration.
The process, while varying in complexity, materials, and technique, basically consists of gluing together thin sheets of metal, such as brass or pewter, and animal components, such as tortoiseshell or ivory, and then cutting them into fanciful arrangements of geometric, arabesque and grotesque designs that are in turn glued onto a wood substrate which is usually oak.
Tortoiseshell Clocks are subject to CITES regulations which states in the UK that items have to be made before 1947.