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straw marquetry

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STRAW MARQUETRY

Magical, appealing, fascinating - since more than 300 hundred years.

Whether called straw marquetry, straw intarsia or straw mosaic: Remarkable is its natural golden gloss and its surprisingly vibrant gleam. Straw marquetry has something fascinating, nearly magical - not least because of the remarkable metamorphosis of such a trivial material into shimmering artworks.  

As early as the beginning of the 17th century, straw marquetry was being produced in Europe. Homeworkers, nuns, monks and (noble) dilettantes were among the creators as well as craftsman and ebonists. Therefore quality and design of objects using straw marquetry are quite diverse. While some pieces appear nearly naive, others are made very masterfully. Some of these objects were even presented in royal cabinets of wonder as they suited the taste of its blooming period in the 17th and 18th century very well. Because of its silky golden gloss and its bright colors, straw marquetry was held in great esteem as unusual and remarkable decoration for furniture and other objects - just like gemstones, tortoiseshell or ivory. Consequently, the assumption that straw marquetry was an imitation of wood marquetry is mostly false. In the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, many pieces with straw marquetry were produced in prisoner of war camps in England and France. Also outside of prisons a lot of straw marquetry was made to decorate everyday objects and souvenirs.

 

​Nowadays, straw marquetry and the related handicraft have almost completely fallen into oblivion. Consequently, preserved objects are very often discounted as "folksy tinkering" and therefore assigned to a section of art history that is only mildly noteworthy. Indeed it is overlooked that straw marquetry was widely common and appreciated in folksy and royal circles alike. It's about time to get the numerously preserved objects with straw marquetry out of the cellars and museum depots, where they are waiting mainly unnoticed for their discovery. It's about time to rediscover the forgotten craftsmanship of straw marquetry.