Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A French Marquetry Inkstand, 1720

French Marquetry Inkstand
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the early Eighteenth Century, especially by 1720, desk and writing-related items were among the most fashionable of luxury goods since they could display the status and learning of the owners. Even though a gentleman might employ secretaries to do his writing for him, it was essential that his own tools for writing were both elegant and efficient.

Large inkstands such as the one pictured above allowed for all the requisite writing equipment to be contained together. The semi-circular trough at the front of this French example dating to 1720 was designed to hold quill pens, while the three compartments at the back held (from left to right) ink in a glass pot, a sponge (for wiping the end of the pen free of unsightly blobs which would have spoiled the writing) and a pot for “pounce,” a powdered sandarac which was sprinkled over the writing to prevent runs. It is veneered in boulle marquetry of tortoiseshell and brass, with sumptuous figural brass mounts, and may well have matched the writing table for which it was first made.

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