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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ébéniste is the French word for a "cabinetmaker," whereas in French "menuisier" denotes a woodcarver or chairmaker. The English equivalent for "ébéniste" is "ebonists," but is never commonly used. The word is 17th century in origin. An ébéniste originally was one working with ebony, a favoured luxury wood for mid-seventeenth century Parisian cabinets, originating in imitation of elite furniture being made in Antwerp. Early Parisian ébénistes often came from the Low Countries themselves: an outstanding example is Pierre Golle, who worked at the Manufactory of the Gobelins making cabinets and table tops veneered with marquetry, the traditional enrichment of ébénisterie, or cabinet-work.

Ébénistes make case furniture, which may be veneered or painted. Under Parisian guild regulations, the application of painted varnishes, generically called vernis Martin was carried out in separate workshops, sawdust being an enemy to freshly-varnished surfaces. At the outset of the French Revolution the guilds in Paris and elsewhere were abolished, and with them went all their regulations. One result of this is that Paris chairmakers were now able to produced veneered chairs, as London furniture-makers, less stringently ruled, had been able to make since the first chairs with splats had been produced shortly before 1720, in imitation of Chinese chairs.

Because of this amalgamation, chairs and other seat furniture began to use veneering techniques which were formerly the guarded privilege of ébénistes. This privilege became less distinct after the relaxation of guild rules of the Ancien Régime, and after the French Revolution's abolition of guilds in 1791. Seat furniture in the French Empire style was often veneered with mahogany, and later in pale woods also.

From the mid-nineteenth century onward, the two French trades, "ébéniste" and "menuisier," were often assembled under the single roof of a "furnisher," and the craft began to make way for the industry.

From the mid-17th century through the 18th, a notable number of ébénistes of German and Low Countries extraction were pre-eminent among Parisian furniture-makers, as the abbreviated list below suggests.

Some Parisian ébénistes

Ébénistes in other centres

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ébéniste" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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