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Inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome: Bench


Wood with marquetry ornamentation
c. 1800
98 x 168 x 52 cm

By the arrival of Charles IV (1788-1808), benches were a common wsight, featuring Neoclassical ornamentation with a French influence.


This bench was made to seat four people. This type of seat represents an innovation in furniture making. Cushions and low chairs were used by women in the salon de estrado before this new bench design was created. Because they offered seating for more than one, these benches facilitated the rituals of courtship..

Technique or Process

The bench shown was made with curved arms and lathe-turned posts. The arms and the apron have marquetry ornamentation. This is an art process where small pieces of wood are inlaid into a wooden veneer. Marquetry designs ranged from simple geometric designs to the very ornate.

Cultural Roots

The bench in this exhibit shows the confluence of many cultures. The use of marquetry woodwork originated in Europe during the Baroque period. However, the style of marquetry used in these pieces were uniquely created by the artisans in Mexico who crafted geometric bands with two colors of wood. Garlands, ovals, circles, fluting and Pompeian urns with stair-stepped bases at the bottom. The front legs are slightly tapered cylinders. These styles and motifs are characteristic of art designs used in ancient Greece and Rome centuries earlier. The straight rear legs, however, are a unique feature. The Mexican rustic style of the rear legs was a great departure from the contemporary fragile pieces being build t in Europe.

Lesson Plans
Visual Arts Lesson: Designing a marquetry jewelry box.
Extension Activities

Math: Draw a marquetry design using geometric shapes and patterns that illustrates symmetry.

Language Arts:
Write an essay about something you collect. What do you collect and why? Tell what motivated you to start your collection and the significance it has for you.

Social Studies:
Compare and contrast courtship rituals in Mexico and France in the nineteenth century. Make a venn diagram showing how the customs were alike and how they were different.


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