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.

Example of Boulle Marquetry from the Wallace Collection, London

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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.

Chandelier – Louis XIV, Attributed to André-Charles Boulle.

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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.

A cabinet-on-stand attributed to André-Charles Boulle, about 1660

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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.

A marquetry scene. Attributed to André-Charles Boulle

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