In the past, it was sometimes considered acceptable to mimic only the visual qualities when replacing lost original elements. Little or no attention was paid to the original craftsman's techniques and the repair was often effected in the fastest way possible. Here is an outstanding marquetry desk that was marred by such a quick fix.
During a decades older "restoration", lost pieces of marquetry were replaced with a single piece of wood that was then painted to approximate the original. In our opinion — as well as that of the owner — this clumsy repair was no longer adequate. It created an aesthetic distortion and did not represent the object's truth. In addition, it was quite visible on close inspection by expert eyes.
Recreating marquetry is exacting work. What looks like a single element is actually composed of several small pieces of different types of woods. We made a comprehensive inspection of the entire desk to find other areas with similar pattern elements. Once this was done, we started to draw in order to discover the lost forms. When we thought we had found the solution, we cut the pieces and laid them in place. This process often has to be repeated; it seldom comes out right the first time. In the end it took four individual pieces and three different woods to recreate Boulle's original work. We also had to patinate our work to give the new wood similar optical characteristics to the rest of the three-century-old surface.
With the new pieces held in place by natural hide glue and a coating of traditional sandarac, we have recreated Boulle's original intentions in a way that can be completely reversed if necessary.