The art of hardstone marquetry, December 19, 2023

Furniture and Works of Art
Sale December 19 at 5pm at Tajan in Paris



For our prestigious sale on December 19, Elsa Kozlowski, Director of the 17th-19Th Furniture and Art Objects department, unveils an exceptional plaque that was part of a stone marquetry table bearing the arms of Louis XIV, made at the Manufacture des Gobelins between 1670 and 1710.

On this plaque, a majestic fox occupies the centre of the scene, its head held high; its eyes are piercing, attentive, its ears pricked up, it seems to be on the lookout, in an environment of greenery, before quenching its thirst. In the foreground, a large tree in bloom takes up the whole of the right-hand side. In the background, a mountain sloping from left to right and from top to bottom closes the landscape enveloped by a cloudy sky.




“L’Opificio delle pietre dure”, the hard stone workshop

These hard stone marquetries are made entirely from natural semi-precious stones and marbles, chosen and cut by the artist according to what he wants to represent. Everything is natural, like the chalcedony puddle or the agate tree trunk. Each stone is meticulously chosen, with its veining and colours, then cut to achieve the desired effect and form a precious jigsaw puzzle, like a painter with his colours and brush.

The Florentines excelled in this work for the Medici. The creation of the hard stone workshop, now the “Opificio delle pietre dure”, which has become an institute for scientific research and restoration, dates back to the Renaissance.

The Gobelins hardstone workshop in Paris was created on the initiative of Colbert to enhance the influence of Louis XIV. It was active for some forty years between 1670 and 1710, and was reserved exclusively for Louis XIV’s royal residences. So it was that Ferdinando Megliorini and Filippo Branchi, excellent craftsmen working in Florence, set off for Paris in October 1668, with hard stones in their luggage, to begin work as soon as possible at the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins.




A design from the Gobelins workshops, decorated with the crowned royal cypher…

The precious plaque is featured on a design for a hardstone marquetry table made in the Gobelins workshops, decorated with the crowned royal cypher and held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (see Les Meubles de pierres dures de Louis XIV et l’Atelier des Gobelins by Stéphane Castelluccio, published by Faton, reproduced on page 56). This platter is decorated with four rectangular plaques depicting animals, one of which, a fox on the prowl, is probably our plaque.

It can also be compared to the Gobelins marquetry plaques on the front of a large cabinet made by Domenico Gucci between 1679 and 1682 for the Salon de Mars in Versailles, now conserved in England at Alnwick Castle (Ref: Les Meubles de pierres dures de Louis XIV et l’Atelier des Gobelins by Stéphane Castelluccio, éditions Faton, reproduced on pages 53 and 97).

The fashion for large architectural cabinets and hardstone platters soon faded. The furniture and platters were sold at auction during the 18th century, often dismantled, and the hard stone plaques were salvaged, sometimes reused under Louis XVI in particular, but often lost or isolated.

This is the case here, with the reappearance of this masterpiece: the precious plaque was reused, embedded in this table, at an unknown date, in the centre of a rectangular white marble top decorated with polychrome flowerpots.


Fox on the prowl in a landscape
Rectangular plaque in hardstone marquetry; agate, jaspered agate, orbicular jasper, jasper, onyx, chalcedony; part of a table also in hardstone marquetry with the coat of arms of Louis XIV, made at the Manufacture for the Monarch.
the Monarch.
To be compared with two tables, one in the Louvre, Galerie d’Apollon, and the other in the Château de Compiègne.
Plate dimensions: W 32 x H 25.7 cm









Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at 5pm
Tajan, 37 rue des Mathurins, 75008 Paris


Elsa Kozlowski – Department Director
+33 1 53 30 30 39 – [email protected]