Anyway, I want to encourage any activity these days that will keep people interested in decorative objects, and increase their understanding of the process used to create these wonderful artifacts of the past. So Patrice and I were enthusiastic about being asked to help.
The AIC flew me back to see the original objects we were being asked to interpret, a Boulle coffer made of tortoise shell and brass, and a secretary by Roentgen. It was my first visit to the Art Institute, and my first return to Chicago since I was there about 40 years ago. I was impressed with the way the downtown has changed, the look of Millennial Park, and the new skyline. What a nice place. I also want to compliment them on their public transportation system. I stepped off the plane, crossed the airport terminal to the metro and was dropped off directly in front of my hotel. Then I had to simply walk across the street to the Institute. (In San Diego, there is a trolly system, but it doesn't go the one mile to the airport. You need to get a car to go from the airport to the trolly system...)
Working with the staff of the European Decorative Arts department, it was decided to use one corner of the Boulle coffer design and one element of the marquetry on the drawer of the secretary as a demonstration. I returned to work with photos and dimensions of each.
We decided to divide the project, according to our strengths. Patrice has a talent for accuracy and was assigned the Roentgen design to create. I selected the Boulle pattern, as most of my work has been using that process.
One thing I changed was the material for the Boulle. Although I have actual tortoise shell which was purchased legally prior to the C.I.T.I.E.S. ban on endangered species, I did not want to use it. Instead, I used common animal horn, with colored paper backing, to simulate the look of the shell. Also, I decided not to use a chevalet to cut the design, as it is still not conclusive that this tool was used by Boulle. Therefore, I used the foot powered frame saw, as that was a tool I believe was available at that time.
Patrice used a hand held fret saw and a bird's mouth support, cutting the internal elements with a perpendicular angle and the exterior of the design with a bevel angle. That means that, by cutting the cavity in the background veneer with a similar angle, the elements will fit nicely. It was interesting to do the research on Roentgen's method, as the Metropolitan Museum in New York was exhibiting works by Roentgen and the book they published, "Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens," is well written and informative. As it turns out, on page 230 a very similar flower is shown being cut and inlaid, using the same methods as Patrice. We got the book only after we had completed the video project, so seeing confirmation of our work was rewarding.
It is interesting that at the same time as we were creating this video for the AIC, our friend, Yannick Chastang was creating a similar video for the Victoria and Albert museum. It is fun to compare these videos, as there are slight differences in the process, as I am sure there were slight variations in the methods used during the period.
Here are the videos:
Patrick does Boulle
Patrice does Roentgen
Yannick does Boulle
|A Small Token of our Gratitude|