Ebony and ivory dating

Although synonymous with wood mosaic Tunbridge ware boxes were made long before this technique and style of decoration was arrived at in the 1830s.The woodworkers in the area of Tunbridge Wells were making wooden artifacts even earlier than the seventeenth century when the town became a fashionable Spa resort.The mosaic technique was used to create geometric border patterns as well as more ambitious representations of flora, fauna, people and buildings.

ebony and ivory dating-86

The Tunbridge Ware makers must have studied and understood the principle of this technique as the triangular stickware is an adaptation of Sadeli in wood.

The later mosaic is a further development, rejecting geometric pattern and adopting Berlin woolwork naturalistic representations, to create an altogether different effect.

Another type of Tunbridge Ware geometric design was created by the stickware method.

This was the gluing and binding together of triangular sticks of wood in contrasting colours, which were made into rods.

Again it is not easy to be certain that these boxes were definitely made or decorated in Tunbridge as the inspirations for the pictures were often drawn from pattern books available throughout the country.

However even if they were not decorated by the Tunbridge makers many of these boxes were supplied ‘in the white’ by them, for ladies to decorate at home. The parquetry and long triangular ‘vandyke’ patterns, which decorate the Tunbridge Ware boxes of this period, are of such distinctive quality that they cannot be mistaken for anything else.

The result was that the box looked as if it was decorated with inlaid tesserae.

In the best examples of mosaic contrasting colours of wood were used carefully, to create well defined patterns.

The makers laid out the patterns, using the contrasts and harmonies of the material, with total respect for its natural beauty and quality.

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