Box House Antiques

Fine English William & Mary period walnut and marquetry furniture

Fine English William and Mary period walnut and marquetry furniture.

Seaweed marquetry is usually associated with Dutch master cabinet makers working in the latter half of the 17th century. However some early Italian pieces display a cruder form of seaweed marquetry.  Furniture made in England will have certain distinguishing features whilst always demonstrating the close links that existed between Continental and English cabinet makers during the reign of William & Mary. William, the Dutch Prince of Orange, came to the throne in 1689. William continued to reign until 1702. The technique of seaweed marquetry inlay continued into the reign of Queen Anne but mostly died out after the Hanoverian succession. Seaweed marquetry derives its name from a loose similarity with the appearance of seaweed.


William of Orange brought with him Dutch influences with respect to the arts and fashion, in particular the complicated technique of marquetry inlay with scroll work and arabesques.


Pieces made in Holland are characteristically Dutch in form. Usually of over-large proportions to exhibit wealth, suiting the large rooms of the wealthy continental nobility and merchant classes. The art of marquetry was hugely work-intensive and costly, restricted to a few master craftsmen. Typical features of Dutch furniture would be square, somewhat overwhelming  proportions, with large flat surfaces smothered in complex marquetry. Large cabinet furniture would have been ideal to store collections of Delftware. Dutch construction would be evidenced by an absence of mouldings and carving. Carcasses would almost invariably be in oak.


Refugees from a religious background are not new phenomena. Many persecuted Hugenot religious refugees came to England from the Continent in the 1680’s  to establish themselves as master craftsmen bringing with them, inter alia, the skills of inlaying with seaweed marquetry. Referred to as ‘marqueterie a l’Anglaise’.


Pieces made in England  would be of smaller proportions in keeping with the smaller rooms becoming fashionable in late 17th century and early 18th century English houses. Surfaces would be inlaid with seaweed marquetry, also found in smallish reserves on a walnut ground.  Furthermore typically on clock cases, escritoires, lace boxes, kneehole desks, bureaux, chests on stands, games tables and walnut cushion framed mirrors.


Fine seaweed marquetry work is often associated with the Royal Cabinet maker Gerrit Jensen (of Dutch origins) active in 1680, died 1715.  (See Adam Bowett,  English Furniture  1660-1714 , from Charles II  to Queen Anne, Woodbridge  2002, figs. 7:9-12, 7;20-21 , 7:35-, 7;39-40, 7:48-49.)


Another brilliant exponent of the art of marquetry was Jan van Mekeren working in London in 1683.

Van Mekeren was a superb exponent of floral marquetry.


For students of marquetry it may be of interest to contact :   or janet


Bibliographic References :

R.W. Symonds: Veneered Walnut Furniture, London 1946, plates 16, 1. See pages 9 and 29.

For references to the seaweed marquetry in the V & A Museum contact : E-mail: