Marquetry Symposium Vadstena, Sweden 2007

Marquetry – Past and Present
2nd Scandinavian Symposium on Furniture Technology & Design
Vadstena, Sweden
May 10-12, 2007

The Marquetry Symposium in Vadstena was the second international conference hosted by Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design at Linköping University.  it followed the Upholstery Symposium held in 2005.

The conference was chaired by Ulf Brumme, Chairman of the organising committee.

The aims of the conference are given below, in unedited text.

Since ancient times marquetry has been used to decorate furniture and interiors. Starting with basic but intricate geometric patterns in the Middle Ages, the art of marquetry had its peak in the late 18th century when craftsmen like Riesner, Roentgen and Haupt produced highly elaborate and artistic inlays. Even though the art and craft of marquetry has gradually declined ever since the Art Deco-period, we also find a living tradition, not least at Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design in Stockholm.

Restoration projects confront us with problems where at least part of the solution is hidden in the actual craft procedure. However, technical documentation on historic techniques and tools is scarce; so is research on timbers and other materials involved. A better understanding of the technical aspects is crucial also for the development of modern marquetry.

The aim of the symposium is to bring together both art historians, designers, craftsmen, conservators/restorers and conservation scientists. The interest in the symposium and the response on our First Call for Papers has been far beyond our expectations. The presentations will cover a multitude of aspects and is well inline with our ambition to include both historical, theoretical, technical and design related aspects in the programme.

Accommodation and speakers

Accommodation was in a now disused Monastery, which was, as expected,  basic, yet with a inner warmth, perhaps as a result of a lasting presence of past occupants. My dear and late wife, Gloria, accompanied me for the event, as we had organised a weeks holiday in Stockholm at the end of the conference.  A short mornings walk found us spending our days in the conference centre.

Twenty-four speakers were booked to offer their marquetry papers. I had decided my subject would cover a current project, which I had embarked on in 2003, with a retired furniture maker Ron Dickens. My paper was based round  the marquetry on the replica Diana and Minerva Commode, made by Thomas Chippendale in 1773. I had past experience of public speaking in my professional management life, but now I initially felt quite out of sorts, being among many academics with specialist experience and knowledge of their subject. My apprehension was soon dismissed, after I had listened to the early speakers, which were inspiring, but I realised my marquetry background, being taught on a one-to-one basis for eight years, by my late uncle, Tommy Limmer, was as good as any formal academic teaching.  I suppose I was also lucky not to be booked to talk until the second day, giving me time to get used to the room, the members, and their presentations.

Preliminary programme – All papers were presented in English

The conference was attended by approximately 100 men and women.

Thursday, May 10  08.00-09.00 Registration

09.00-09.30 Opening and welcome
Mille Millnert, Rector
Ulf Brunne, Chairman of the Organizing Committee

Speakers and subjects

09.30-10.00 Paper 1
Technologies and aesthetics: ancient Egypt to computers and lasers.
Silas Kopf, Private Marqueteur, Easthampton, Massachusetts, USA

10.00-10.30 Paper 2
Pictures in stone: Pietra Dure furniture in the Royal Collection
David Wheeler, Senior Conservator Furniture and Decorative Arts, Royal
Collection, London, UK

10.30-11.00 Coffee

11.00-11.30 Paper 3
Style and technique of the 16th century marquetries on the choirstalls in
the Elisabeth church in Wroclaw
Christine Cornet, Art Historian/Conservator, Fachakademie zur Ausbildung von Restauratoren für Möbel und Holzobjekte des Goering Instituts e.V., München,

11.30-12.00 Paper 4
Marquetry works in the Nordic countries 1560 – 1620: examples from Kalmar Castle and Frederiksborg Castle Stina Ekelund-Karlsson, Furniture Conservator, Rosenborgs slot, Copenhagen,

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.30 Paper 5
An exotic cabinet: the fusion of east with west
Nigel Bamforth, Head of Furniture Conservation Studio, Victoria & Albert
Museum, London, UK

13.30-14.00 Paper 6
Conservation treatment of the Amalia cabinet: a masterpiece of XVIIth
century Dutch cabinetmaking
Angie Barth, Furniture Conservator, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.00-14.30 Paper 7
The conservation of a late seventeenth-century floral marquetry cabinet, attributed to Jan van Mekeren, Amsterdam
Paul van Duin, Head of Furniture Conservation, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Iskander Breebaart, Senior Furniture Conservator, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-15.30 Paper 8
Cornelius Gole and the manufacture of metal marquetry in late 17th century English furniture
Adriana Turpin, Academic Director, MA in the History and Business of Art and Collecting, London, UK

15.30-16.10 Paper 9
Marquetry made of mixed materials: the conservation project “Furniture in Boulle technique” at the Bavarian National Museum, Munich
Roswitha Schwarz, Senior Furniture Conservator, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum,
Münich, Germany
Stefan Demeter, Furniture Conservator, Technische Universität, Münich,

16.10-16.40 Paper 10
UV-VIS-absorption spectrometry: a non-destructive method for dyestuff identification
Heinrich Piening, Senior Furniture Conservator/Conservation Scientist,
Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlischen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen, Münich,

Friday, May 11

09.00-09.30 Paper 11
Flower marquetry by Heinrich Wilhelm Spindler in the New Palace of Potsdam. Afra Schick, Curator of Furniture, Abt. Schlösser und Sammlungen Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam, Germany

09.30-10.00 Paper 12
Marquetry techniques in France in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Yannick Chastang, Private Furniture Conservator/Marqueteur, Sittingbourne,
Kent, UK

10.00-10.30 Paper 13
The reproduction of an eighteenth-century roll-top desk by Jean-François Oeben: veneering and marquetry
Bert Declerck, Private Cabinetmaker/Marqueteur, Outgaarden, Belgium

10.30-11.00 Coffee

11.00-11.30 Paper 14
Chippendale’s marquetry revealed
Jack Metcalfe, Private Marqueteur, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

11.30-12.00 Paper 15
Georg Haupt Ebéniste du Roi, Swedish master in cabinetmaking 1770-1784: marquetry and engravings
Per Kortebäck, Furniture Conservator, Kungliga Husgerådskammaren, Stockholm,

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.30 Paper 16
Different materials: tools, treatments, visual exactness
Ulli Freyer, Private Furniture Conservator, Bern, Switzerland

13.30-14.00 Paper 17
From High Wycombe to Iran: the manufacture of micromosaic marquetry (Khatam) from Iran
Paul Tear, Course Leader Furniture Conservation Programme (BA),
Buckinghamshire University College, London, UK

14.00-14.30 Paper 18
Flowers from Holland: veneered antique Dutch furniture with later marquetry from the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Pol Bruys, Private Furniture Conservator, Haarlem, the Netherlands
Jaap Boonstra, Furniture Conservator, Amsterdam Historisches Museum,
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-15.30 Paper 19
New From Old? Discoveries during the conservation of a ‘Boulle’ style
commode in the Wallace Collection
Jürgen Huber, Senior Furniture Conservator, Wallace Collection, London, UK

15.30-16.00 Paper 20
An exploration of the Marquetry of Francois Linke (1855-1946): costs,
suppliers and woods
Christopher Payne, Furniture Historian, London, UK

19.30 Dinner

Saturday, May 12

09.00-09.30 Paper 21
An overview of the continuities and changes in marquetry technologies and techniques.
Clive Edwards, Research Director, School of Art and Design, Loughborough
University, UK

09.30-10.00 Paper 22
The demand for decoration in Norwegian modernism: a political statement
Widar Halén, Senior Curator/DPhil.Oxon., Kunstindustrimuseet, Oslo, Norway

10.00-10.30 Coffee

10.30-11.00 Paper 23
Wood, no excuse! – the reproduction of a 20th century marquetry cupboard by Hans Wegner.
Kjetil Harket, Private Cabinetmaker, Oslo, Norway

11.00-11.30 Paper 24
A contemporary use of marquetry: traditional techniques in a modern context.
Rasmus Malbert, Private Cabinetmaker, Dals Långed, Sweden

11.30-12.00 Conclusions and closing remarks

The three day event was, for me, a thoroughly enjoyable experience and gave me the opportunity to meet like minded people with a common interest. Silas Kopf kicked off the talks, and he set the standard for the remaining three days. I had studied Silas for some time, not least through his well revered DVD on marquetry techniques. German conservators, Heinrich Piening and his wife Roswitha Schwarz, offered a special opportunity to forge a bond that still exists today. Heinrich’s paper on UV VIS Spectronomy was, for me, like opening pandora’s box and finding the one thing I needed more than anything for my current project. To identify the dyestuffs used by Thomas Chippendale and be able to recreate the replica Diana and Minerva Commode, knowing that the colours of the marquetry work were scientifically proven.  Also, another German speaker  Jürgen Huber, conservator at the Wallace Collection, has, over the past years offered valuable advice and support for my work. Christopher Paine of the BBC Antiques Roadshow programme, gave a paper on French furniture maker, with added marquetry, Francois Linke. I later invited Christopher to repeat the talk to the Leeds Marquetry Group, when I was chairman, at that time.   Frenchman Yannick Chastang, has been a constant inspiration, starting with his work while employed as a conservator at the Wallace Collection, London, then later self employed furniture and marquetry restorer. His articles regularly appearing in the Furniture and Cabinetmaker magazine, provide a welcome educational read.  One day I must get to his place in Kent and meet up again.

Following the conference, Gloria and I took the train to Stockholm, and enjoyed a pleasant weeks holiday in the capitol city. We were both thankful for making friends, in particular meeting three from Germany, following our first year of married life in Schleswig, northern Germany, when I was serving in the Royal Air Force. Because of that, we both held a special affection for Germany and its people.  Ulf Brumme conducted a very successful and enjoyable conference, and I know he still teaches woodworking skills at the Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design at Linköping University.

The event gave me a broader insight of the people, some like me, sole craftsmen, or historians, and some belonging to well known institutes. The breadth of international links I established in three days, multiplied enormously as a result of this gathering, and Ulf Brumme and 23 talented speakers are now good friends.