Adam Bowett - English Furniture 1660-1714 From Charles II to Queen Anne
The top with a moulded edge, centred by a panel of floral marquetry showing a bird and flowers in bloom, with green stained bone depicting leaves, surrounded by an oyster ground and further panels of marquetry. The top above graduated drawers and sides, similarly decorated, all within an oyster ground. Standing on bun feet.
For this spectacular chest to have survived in such an untouched and original condition is remarkable.
At the time the chest was created there was strong interest in naturalistic ornament on both sides of the channel following the restoration of King Charles II.
Thomas Pistor and Gerrit Jensen was amongst the few London cabinet-makers supplying furniture decorated with floral marquetry of the very highest quality.
The style and handling of this piece has strong affinities with furniture supplied by Pistor to Levens Hall in Cumbria in the late 17th Century. Gerrit Jensen was supplier of veneered furniture to the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale as per records of payments from May 1672 until October 1683. Three marquetry tables at Ham House are also thought to be his work.
Gerrit Jensen was probably born in Holland and settled in London before 1667. He is known to have supplied fine marquetry furniture to the court, and prestigious patrons from the 1680s. In the 1670s floral marquetry was highly fashionable and the commissions at Ham suggests that floral marquetry was the speciality with which Jensen acquired his London clientele.
The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning, developed in England during the 17th century. This form of travel was known as the grand tour. The first recorded use of the term was by Richard Lassels (c. 1603–1668), an expatriate Roman Catholic priest. In his book The Voyage of Italy, which was published posthumously in Paris in 1670, and latee in London. Lassels's introduction listed four areas in which travel furnished "an accomplished, consummate Traveller". They were the intellectual, the social, the ethical and the political.
Pietra Dura & the Grand Tour
The Grand Tour offered a liberal education, and the opportunity to acquire things otherwise unavailable, lending an air of accomplishment and prestige to the traveller. Grand Tourists would return with books, works of art, scientific instruments, and cultural artefacts, such as Pietra Dura panels.
Pietra Dura, is a term used for the inly technique of using cut and fitted, polished coloured stones to create a image. Pietra Dura first appeared in Rome in the 16th Century and reached its pinnacle of artistic design and influence in Florence. The floral and bird designs found on many Pietra dura panels, bear a striking resemblance to the marquetry on this chest. One example would be the Alter front at the Dubrovnik Cathedral, where the similarities are particularly striking. It is highly likely that this chest was commissioned by an individual, or designed by a cabinet maker who had returned from a grand tour, and been inspired by depictions of the natural world, born from natural materials, be it wood or precious stones.