Umbel, Spindler Artistic Marquetry
Umbel, Spindler Artistic Marquetry

Among the myriad facets of unique artistry and creativity that one often encounters in Alsace, there is a source that is very special and dear to my heart, the Spindler Artistic Marquetry firm. It is a fountain of inspired art that speaks directly and in a very unique way to my spirit, and I urge anyone who visits Alsace to make an appointment to visit their establishment in the tiny village of Boersch, just outside Obernai. (Visits are by appointment only.)

What makes it special is a combination of extraordinary imagination and an especially eloquent medium, the use of a noble material, wood, in many varieties, harvested from a wide variety of an otherwise silent population of our world: trees. Those of you who may feel as I do a particular kinship with them, might find a deep pleasure and satisfaction in seeing how the artists at Spindler use that medium to speak to us in unique ways. If you have ever been struck by how different certain species of trees appear to us, you will perhaps not be surprised to see how differently their woods appear when they are processed by skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen.

The Spindler firm in the former Saint Leonard Benedictine Abbey in Boersch, Alsace
The Spindler firm in the former Saint Leonard Benedictine Abbey in Boersch, Alsace

The Spindler establishment is located in the former Saint Leonard Benedictine Abbey, at the foot of the Vosges Mountains below Mont Saint Odile, which itself is an icon of Alsatian history, identity and spirituality. Its founder was Charles Spindler, the grandfather of the current owner, Jean-Charles, in 1893. Since then he, followed by his son, Paul, and, since 1975, Jean Charles, have produced an astonishing legacy of art works that are unique in wood marquetry.

The Hunt, Spindler Artistic Marquetry

That in itself is extraordinary, since marquetry first appeared in antiquity as a means of embellishing furniture. Examples produced in the first century in Pompeii and Herculaneum have been extracted. The technique evolved in Italy after the 15thcentury and spread to Antwerp and France in the 17thand 18thcenturies. André Charles Boulle was a master of the technique in furniture produced for the court of Louis XIV. Later the cabinet maker Jean Henri Riesener employed wood marquetry masterfully in furniture he produced for the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The chateau and the umbel, Spindler Artistic Marquetry
The chateau and the umbel, Spindler Artistic Marquetry

Wood marquetry was not originally conceived to be an art form of and by itself, independent of embellishing furniture. That evolved later in the 19thcentury in France, particularly in Nancy and with Charles Spindler’s works, which were inspired by Art Nouveau. See the Spindler establishment website at https://www.spindler.tm.fr/en/ for fascinating information about the techniques of marquetry that they have evolved. The section entitled ‘Know-how,’ https://www.spindler.tm.fr/en/know-how, is rewarding for its clear explanation of the techniques that they employ.

View of Boersch in Alsace, home of Spindler Artistic Marquetry
View of Boersch in Alsace, home of Spindler Artistic Marquetry

Apart from works of art, you might also be interested in the furniture that the Spindler establishment produces: https://www.spindler.tm.fr/en/gallery/the-spindler-tradition/47-furniture-decorative-items. In a way, it is a sort of returning to the roots of wood marquetry. In the years that we have taken clients to visits at the Spindler Artistic Marquetry firm, we have had some who purchased art and others who bought furniture, including a unique interpretation of Alsatian chairs.

If you would like us to incorporate a visit at the Spindler establishment as part of your private tour of Alsace, or even as a parenthesis in your Alsatian wine tour, https://www.parisluxurytours.com/alsace-three-day-tour/, and https://www.parisluxurytours.com/alsace-wine-tour/, please don’t hesitate to ask for it.

S.A.