A is for Arabesque

“A term  (meaning Arabian) used for a form of decorative design in which flowing lines are interlaced. It appears in inlay in light and dark woods during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and again in the marquetry of the reigns of William III and Anne.”

The William III Walnut and Arabesque Marquetry Chest of drawers shown here is an outstanding example dating from about 1690. The panels of Arabesque are light lines inlaid into darker rosewood panels set onto a background of figured walnut and within bandings of leafage . All the mouldings are crossgrained as is usual during this period and the whole is raised on typical bun feet. The feet have in this instance been replaced which is not unusual for pieces from the 17th. century which stood predominantly on stone floors which were washed down with buckets of water and mops. The excess moisture would have been absorbed by the feet which eventually rotted and were replaced.

Arabesque Pattern

In the detailed shot of the top the essential “Englishness” of this piece becomes apparent where you can see the Arabesque Marquetry in the reserves whereas continental Marquetry is more often allowed to meander across the entire carcass. The brilliance of this example as well as the excellent condition is a tribute to the very high standards of both craftsmanship and the materials used .

Arabesque Cabinet

Over the past nearly seven decades we have had the great good fortune to handle several similar examples and there are some instances of comparable cabinets and chests with original receipts from the Royal Cabinetmaker, Gerrit Jensen and indeed one of his pieces is still in Chatsworth house in Derbyshire. It is likely that he made this chest and certainly it is a stunning example.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions please do ask!


David Harvey is a well known Antiques Dealer who owns WR Harvey & Co (Antiques) Ltd, in the bustling Cotswold market town of Witney, Oxfordshire. He has a life long passion for fine antique furniture and works of Art. You may very well see him at prominent Antiques Fairs up and down the UK but you will always be more than welcome to call in and see him at the shop. His other passions include rowing and down-hill skiing.

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