Boulle work can be considered the maximum example of furniture marquetry.
This style takes its name from the French cabinet-maker André-Charles Boulle
, active in Paris at the end of the 1600's.
Boulle decorated furniture by covering the object with inlays, where instead of wood, various types of materials where used. Primarily, these materials consisted in brass and tortoise-shell, but also copper, pewter and silver were used.
The technique used is commonly known as "foro/controforo": brass laminates are placed over specially treated thin sheets of tortoise-shell.
The cut out work is made in the brass following the design desired.
From these cuts a positive area composed of the tortoise-shell base and a negative area consisting of the brass pierced work are obtained.
Often the brass - and at times the tortoise-shell - was then elaborated with incised designs known as the "bulinatura".
Finally, the furniture piece was enriched by gilding and chiselling the brass.
The most important patron of Boulle work furniture was the royal household of
Boulle produced wardrobes, desks and sideboards for the king and the French nobility.
At Boulle's death, the production was continued by his sons, in the "Boulle-style", and expanded throughout France.
During the following century, and especially during the period of Napoleon III, Boulle work furniture became popular in Italy and in England.
Today, especially in Italy, there are still workshops that special in the production of Boulle-style furniture. The most important institute in this area is the Boulle School in Paris.