Historical precis extracts from the manuscripts of Christian Pingeon
In the Middle Ages up until the end of the sixteenth century, the castle
inhabitants, along with some off their more familiar animals, occupied the
rooms. It was imperative that they be able to wash the floor with water.
This did not make parquetry a viable option. Furthermore, the large arched
rooms of the castles were generally of stone.
The wood floors, then, were reserved
for estrades or footboards. These were
placed under the chairs of honor, under the beds, under the seats and the
tables of the winter feasts, or used to mark social status. They were often
covered with a shaggy carpet.
Then, gradually, terra cotta tiling
was used as flooring for the higher
levels of the homes. These floors were made up of juxtaposed boards with
sharp joints, or rabbets. The planks were 5 to 7 inches (1) wide and fixed
to the beams by forged nails.
It wasn't until the 16th and 17th
centuries that floors began to be
assembled with a tongue and groove configuration, with planks 3 to 4 inches
wide. Tongue and groove refers to a type of joint formed by fitting a tongue
on the edge of one board into a groove on another.
Around the beginning of seventeenth
century, there were two general ways of
positioning a parquet floor. They are as follows:
- Floors are formed of panels 5 to 6 feet long. A single plank is then
placed in the contrary direction (engraving Les vierges folles de le Blond
à Paris, 1640, British Museum).
- Hungarian point is made up of various planks of the same dimensions,
end cut at a 45-60 degree angle. The thickness is usually 22mm or 14mm.
Tongue and groove assembly is generally used for parquets nailed onto
In the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries the apartment floors were made
of panels of square parquet flooring. The compartments were positioned
either complimentary to the square or in a diagonal formation, with or
without a plank.
Another technique often employed
with parquet flooring is marquetry, or
parquet floor in mosaic. Marquetry may be composed of star patterns, as with
the Château de Maisons located in Maison Laffite, near Paris. In this castle
there remains a parquet floor of wood marquetry in report/ratio in the
Cabinet of the Mirrors. Parquet floors in mosaic continued gaining
popularity. In 1672, the Mercure Galant, a French gazette and literary
magazine founded by Jean Donneau de Visé in 1672, expressed popular opinion
by stating that people no longer wanted rugs, due to the amount of dirt they
collected, but rather parquet floors in various colors and styles.
Many recognized craftsmen have had
an impact on the evolution of parquet.
They have created new techniques, introduced new materials and made lasting
contributions to the history of parquet.
A prominent engraver in the first
part of the 17th century, Abraham Bosse
provides us with examples of taille-douce engraving, or copperplate
engraving. On an engraving of the King's room at Fontainebleau in 1645,
Bosse provides us with a parquet floor made up of floor squares and
decorated with report/ratio lily flowers.
While nothing remains of the invaluable
wood mosaics of Jean Macé, they
decorated the estradas and certain floors of the cabinets of the Louvre, the
cabinet of the Queen Mother in 1665, the cabinets of Tileries,
Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau and Versailles.
Andre-Charles Boulle was a cabinetmaker
for Louis XVI from 1642 - 1732.
Boulle began as a decorator and woodcarver at the Gobelins. A marquetry
technique popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, Boulle marquetry, would
come to bear his name. This technique utilized a brass veneer set in
tortoiseshell. He is most known for the marquetry floors in the Dauphin's
apartments at Versailles.
A former employee of Boulle, Pierre
Poitou, did the flooring of the Le
Cabinet des médailles, the medal cabinet, in 1685. He would eventually
become the King's marquetry craftsman in 1683. He specialized in marquetry
parquet, utilizing ebony and brass or ebony with brass and pewter.
Alexandre-Jean Oppenordt was a gifted
cabinetmaker employed by Louis XIV. He
is known for his hard stone or brass and tortoise shell marquetry furniture.
He is also known for his parquets and the work he did for La Petite Galerie
de Roi at Versailles palace. A portrait of the Grand Duché (cerca 1660) in
Chantilly (Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum - London) and other
rare drawings reveal the changeable iridescence of the work.
Geometrical drawings can add variety
to the flooring, as is the case with
the semicircle parquet floor in the Room of the Council at Fontainebleau,
decorated with a geometrical star pattern. Generally, the floors are waxed
and remain bare. There is a crew of workers dedicated to the maintenance of
In the Choiseul Hotel in Paris,
there were parquet floors of wood mosaic in
report/ratio, similar to the mosaic seen on the gouaches of Henri Van
Blarenberghe (1734-1812) decorating the Choiseul Box. In the Hôtel de
Soubise, the oval living rooms had wood parquet floors in Versailles style.
Furthermore, it is known that workshops in the influential social circles of
Hache junior in Grenoble still produced sheets of parquet floors made up of
different woods near the end of the eighteenth century. The stages reserved
for services and the ground in the rooms and corridors are made of terra
cotta (tommettes) with six sides of four inches (10.8 cm) each. These are
cared for by waxing.
Thus, parquet is not only an artistic
expression of antique craftsmanship,
but also a practical and elegant addition to modern day homes. Its evolution
has lasted throughout the centuries and continues to this day.
(1) 1 French inch = 27,0696 mm
(2) 1 foot = 12 inches = 324,835 mm