Sometimes called ‘painting in wood’, marquetry is an art form evolved from ancient Italian stone work, pietra dura, and the intarsia and inlay work in Italian churches from the 11th and 12th centuries.
In the 15 and 1600s, fine saw blades allowed artists to cut out very detailed designs in wood and these began to be applied to furniture. Italian artists came to France in the 1600s and introduced marquetry to the French court artists. Marquetry flourished in 18th century Paris and are now some of the most revered creations in the history of furniture.
Pictured is the marquetry donkey made from drawings obtained at the Ecole Boulle in Paris, where this art is still taught. The donkey, or chevalet, is a saw frame with a fine blade that allows multiple pieces of veneer to be cut simultaneously. This donkey is made of Texas mesquite. It is used in the creation of original pieces of art furniture and in the restoration of period marquetry works.