Treasure box, an exceptional project in which I had the chance to collaborate with Antiques Refinishers. These two outstanding cabinetmakers restorers located in San Diego (CA), had already made two box models in the past few years but this time they wanted to create something special, even more sophisticated.
This extremely elegant box was inspired by the one attributed to André Charles Boulles, currently kept in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
This small masterpiece, produced in 4 copies, took no less than 2 years of work. From the design to the finishing touches, including the marquetry, all the steps were carried out by hand in the purest tradition with noble and quality materials. Entirely glued with animal glue, thus offering restoration possibilities for future generations.
This rectangular box resting on 4 turned ball feet opens in its domed lid. Opening with a key on a frieze of piastres in marquetry, it reveals a small mirror and a display shelf covered with a silk velvet. A secret compartment is hidden here. The opposite flap reveals a series of four drawers. The exterior is veneered on all sides in sawn veneer on a solid oak core. Decorated with bird inlays on acanthus leaf scrolls edged with flowers and framed with tin and brass fillets. The whole rests on a table with four sheathed legs, finished in a spinning top. The top and legs are profiled with mouldings gilded with gold leaf. Scrolled crosspieces decorated with acanthus scrolls and mascarons topped with a shell. X-shaped spacer decorated with a central rosette in marquetry. French polished.
My part of the work was to realize the « soul » of the boxes while all the marquetry work was done in San Diego. After receiving the plans and understanding the scope of the project I immediately proposed to work with Tronçais oak. This oak has the peculiarity of offering exceptional regularity and stability, an important point, especially since these pieces, once finished, had to cross the Atlantic to reach a completely different climate. Moreover, the history of the Tronçais oak was an interesting point to exploit for this kind of project, whatever their final destination, these boxes carry within them a little bit of the history of France.
Indeed, the forest of Tronçais is recognized as one of the most beautiful oak forests in Europe. With a surface area of 11,000 hectares, the oak covers 80% of its surface. The first known mention dates back to 1189. It is about rights of use granted by the lord of Bourbon to the prior of La Bouteille. These forests fell into the royal domain in 1527, by confiscation of the property of Charles III de Bourbon, Constable of France, who had betrayed Francis I to his rival, Charles V. His fate was to change following a decision by Colbert when he was appointed Minister of the Navy of Louis XIV in 1669. He wanted to make the kingdom of France the first maritime power in the world. He therefore ordered the planting of more than a million hectares of high quality trees especially for marine timber. And for the forests already existing, he forced to modify the management in order to preserve a quarter of the surface of each forest in high forest. But the Forêt de Tronçais is special and distinguished itself from the other royal forests. The quality of its woods is so exceptional that its most beautiful oaks were not intended for the navy but for making barrels for Cognac and Bordeaux. Today the last beautiful specimens spread over 13 hectares are preserved by the ONF and classified as biological reserve. Most of these oaks are no less than 300 years old…
In order to deal with the technical points of my work, all operations were carried out manually without any stationary or electrically operated machines, except for the spreading operations.
The case of the boxes is assembled with mitered dovetails. This assembling technique is not only the most solid in the long term since, even without glue, it cannot be dismantled under the force of traction, but also has the particularity of leaving no visible surface of end wood. An important and necessary detail to obtain an optimal adhesion of the veneer to the support, always in the long term .
The underside is assembled to the body by dovetailing.
The lid is also assembled in dovetail mitre joints. The curved top has been made with a 5-ply oak veneer glueing mounted in a mould and counter-mould. The plywood obtained is then mounted in a rabbet on the elements of the lid. The sides were edged according to the curvature of the top, the front and back were shaped to finish curved.
The display and mirror panels are traditionally mounted in a mitre frame with a central panel assembled in tongue and groove.
All the drawer elements have been pre-cut to enable them to be assembled and adjusted as best as possible on site.
Finally, all the elements were carefully located, organised and safely crated so that they could arrive at their destination without any problems (51.6 kg in total, however).