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Motifs of Marquetry

Sitting proudly in Covent Garden Hotel’s Drawing Room is an antique writing desk. Its exquisite details seem to hold secrets of the past. It is easy to let the imagination run wild and ponder who sat at this desk: Was it an entrepreneur sorting an exciting business trade? Did it once serve as the platform for a lover to write to their adored? Whilst these stories come from our imaginations, we can take a deeper look at the history of marquetry. Join us as we explore the details of this intricate piece of antique furniture.

Marquetry is an ancient art form dating back to the 16th century. It is a decorative technique of assembling wood veneers that are sawn into a pattern and then assembled like a jigsaw. Furniture displaying the art of marquetry reflects hundreds of hours of design, passion and craft, informed by thousands of years of heritage and artisanship.

Motifs and patterns are the building blocks to a marquetry masterpiece. There are recurring motifs in textile design, architecture and furniture that we recognise as meaningful symbols. When we take a closer look at our writing desk at Covent Garden Hotel, we can discover a few motifs as we commonly know them today…

Star of David
The most prolific motif adorned on the desk is the 6 pointed symbol commonly referred to as the Star of David. A reference to the Biblical king and his legendary ‘shield’. We see the star repeated numerous times.

Celtic Knot
On the drawer fronts, we spot a familiar three part twist that reminds us of the traditional Celtic knot. The meaning of this motif is commonly considered to signify the three forces of nature: water, fire and earth.

16 Petal Flower
Just above the tambour door are flowers that have 16 petals. Interestingly, this desk was created in Japan for the European market in the nineteenth century and the motif likely represents the Chrysanthemums in Japanese culture. Chrysanthemums came to Japan from China around the 8th century A.D. and the Emperor adopted the 16-petaled flower, or ‘Ichimonjiginu’, as the crest and official seal. Each autumn during the ‘Festival of Happiness’, cascades of chrysanthemums decorate temples throughout Japan. It is fun to see the regional detail from the desk’s origin displayed proudly on its breast.

Creating the boundaries and edges that hold each motif, the chain detail is expertly crafted to create a frame around each drawer, paper slot and cubby. Chains often symbolise interconnectedness, love and brotherhood.

Details and motifs make marquetry so fascinating and alluring. When investing in a piece of marquetry furniture you are sure to find delight over and over again. It is a reliable conversation starter and will spark your imagination. Be sure to take a closer look at our Drawing Room desk next time you visit Covent Garden Hotel.

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