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André Charles Boulle (1642-1732)

André Charles Boulle was a famous French cabinetmaker and sculptor. He is known as an outstanding master of Baroque marquetry.

Cabinet, Attributed to André Charles Boulle (French, Paris 1642–1732 Paris), Oak veneered with Macassar and Gabon ebony, ebonized fruitwood, burl wood, and marquetry of tortoiseshell and brass; gilt bronze, French, Paris

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About his life

André-Charles Boulle was born in 1642 in the Duchy of Gelders. He had German origins. In 1672 Boulle became a royal cabinetmaker and sculptor. He worked at the court of King Louis XIV, known as the “Sun King” and lived in the Louvre Palace. Boulle produced furniture and also gilded bronze furnishings, such as chandeliers, wall lamps, and decorative items. Following the strict rules of the guild, masters usually could not have two professions at the same time, but Boulle’s privileged position  gave him protected status and exempted him from these statutes. He died in 1732, famous but full of debts.

Eight-light chandelier ca. 1710 Possibly by André Charles Boulle- Chased bronze and gilt, iron, French, Paris

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What were his major works?

André-Charles Boulle created magnificent dressers, consoles, wardrobes, pedestals, watch cases, and lighting fixtures. They were richly decorated with gilded bronze, which he modeled by himself. One of his masterpieces is a baroque cabinet (1660) at the court of Louis XIV. This is a splendid example of taste and luxury. Boulle never signed his products, so many of the works of Boulle-marquetry in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum are marked as “attributed to André-Charles Boulle”. Excellent examples of his art can be found in Versailles, Fontainebleau, the Louvre, and in England – in Windsor Castle and the Wallace Collection in London.

The J. Paul Getty Museum. Cabinet on Stand; André-Charles Boulle- Paris, France; about 1675 – 1680

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Commode, André Charles Boulle (French, Paris 1642–1732 Paris), Walnut veneered with ebony, marquetry of engraved brass and tortoiseshell, gilt-bronze mounts, verd antique marble, French

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How can we identify Boulle’s style?

André-Charles Boulle defined the style of Louis XIV, characterized by elaborate brass – bronzed ornamentation (sometimes engraved) and tortoiseshell marquetry. He also incorporated exotic woods from India and South America. The technique of marquetry was known before: it was used by Italian masters of the 16th century, but Boulle experimented and improved it as extremely fine art. He drew inspiration from his collection of workshops of drawings, prints, and paintings by Raphael, Rubens, and Italian engraver Stefano della Bella.

Clock with pedestal, Case attributed to André Charles Boulle (French, Paris 1642–1732 Paris), Case and pedestal of oak with marquetry of tortoiseshell, engraved brass, and pewter; gilt bronze; dial of gilt brass with white enameled Arabic numerals; movement of brass and steel, French, Paris
Clock with pedestal, Case attributed to André Charles Boulle (French, Paris 1642–1732 Paris)

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