18th century Boulle Commode restored to its former glory

Bowhill House tour guide Adam Borwick with the recently restored Boulle commode,  designed by renowned French cabinetmaker to Louis XIV, Andr�-Charles Boulle.
Bowhill House tour guide Adam Borwick with the recently restored Boulle commode, designed by renowned French cabinetmaker to Louis XIV, Andr�-Charles Boulle.

Visitors to Bowhill House, Selkirk can take a closer look at an exquisitely decorated, newly restored commode.

Designed by renowned French cabinetmaker to Louis XIV, André-Charles Boulle, the commode which dates back to the early 1700s, has reassumed pride of place in the dining room at Bowhill House following its recent restoration.

Christened by his contemporaries as “the most skillful artisan in Paris,” Boulle’s name is synonymous with the practice of veneering furniture with marquetry of tortoiseshell, pewter, and brass. Although he did not invent the technique, he was its greatest practitioner.

Examples of Boulle’s work can be seen at the V&A, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the JP Getty Museum in LA, however only two other known pieces by the maker of this form of chest furniture are known in the world, one at the Louvre, the other in the Royal Collections at Windsor Castle.

Helen Currie, House Manager at Bowhill, said:

“The Boulle Commode was sent to Yannick Chastang’s studio in Kent, the world respected authority on the conservation of Boulle, where the brass inlay, ebony and tortoiseshell embellishments were removed, cleaned and repaired, and a poor 19th century replacement gilt-bronze mount was re-cast to a quality similar to that of the original.

“It looks fantastic and can be seen as part of the Bowhill House tour where visitors can hear more about its past.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to see a beautiful, important and rare example of Boulle’s work right here in the Borders.”

The commode sits alongside exciting pieces from the Buccleuch Art Collection including paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Antonio Canaletto.

Helen continued: “We continually restore the stunning furnishings within the House to help keep its history and heritage alive for visitors.

“In addition to the commode, the dust falls in Bowhill’s library – leather flaps which cover the gap between the books and the shelf above - have recently been repaired and the conservation of the Boudoir foliate-carved pelmets and curtains has been completed.”

For more information on Bowhill, visit www.bowhillhouse.co.uk, Facebook @BowhillHouse and Instagram @bowhillhouse.