Jewelry box - Klimt on a box

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Project by madburg posted 02-05-2016 03:15 PM 3103 views 12 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Klimt on a box

The Outside
My wife and I have always admired The Kiss, arguably Gustav Klimt’s greatest masterpiece. It was painted by the Austrian artist in 1907/8 and is thought to depict him with his life-long lover Emile Floge.

On holiday in Japan in 2014 I came across a small three dimension sculpture of The Kiss in the shop of the Open Air sculpture park in Hakone. While looking at the small sculpture I had the idea that with so many straight lines, rectangles and circles, all-be-it small, it might just be possible to do a marquetry version. The seed of an idea was sown.

Back home I looked at a book on Gustav Klimt’s work that I had bought my wife several years earlier, and yes I decide a marquetry version of The Kiss was possible. Never one for just doing a marquetry picture I needed something to put it on. The idea of a special box was born.

While The Kiss could go on the lid of the box, the marquetry panel had to be big enough so that the scaled down small detail it included could actually be made. So with The Kiss on the lid. But what about the sides of the box?

In my wife’s book on his work I found pictures of his working drawings for another of his famous works The Fulfilment mosaic for the Stoclet Palace frieze. The frieze was commissioned by a wealthy Belgian Banker, Adolphe Stoclet, and was to adorn the walls of the dining room in his Stoclet Palace. The finished frieze is 14 meters long, and around 2 meters tall. It is made of marble and inlaid with copper, silver, corals, and semi-precious stones. Klimt designed the frieze in collaboration with the Vienna Workhop of the Viennese Secessionists movement whose skilled artisans then made the frieze under his direction in around 1905/6.

Always enjoying a challenge it looked just possible, with some modifications to reduce its size, to turn Klimt’s drawings for the frieze into marquetry panels for the sides of the box. The main problem I could foresee was cutting out the Tree of Life which forms the back ground for most of the frieze. I certainly couldn’t contemplate cutting the tree out by hand. It would take a very long continuous saw cut and would be too fragile to handle. But could it be cut by laser technology? Discussions with fellow FWWA member, Len Starkie, suggested it could be done.

I painstakingly traced the Tree of Life into the computer to provide Len with a MS Word drawing file that he could convert with Coral Draw into a vector file which his laser cutter could use. With Lens help it worked first time and I had the two pieces of veneer – the background with a tree shaped hole in it, and the actual Tree of Life to fit into the hole!! Apart from the branches of the Tree of Life which were laser cut,
all the other flowers, buds, leaves, rose bushes, figures, birds, and butterflies are cut out entirely by hand.

The main elements of the frieze represented on the box are: The Tree of life which wraps around the front and sides of the box, with Rose bushes on each side panel. The Dancing Girl, representing Waiting, left front. The Embrace representing Fulfilment, right front, and The Knight, an abstract design taken from the back wall of the Stoclet dining room, on the rear of the box. These motifs are repeated on the interior of the box.

The outside of the box with its marquetry designs and use of light coloured veneers is a change from the usual dark figured burl veneers often found on boxes.

The Inside
The concept for the design of this complex box and the way it opens was inspired by Victorian dressing boxes made in the 1880’s. George Betjemann & Sons, patented a complex mechanical design that allowed his boxes to automatically open as the lid was raised, with the compartmented sections cantilevering out. Mine requires you to open the sections manually!!

Lift the lid and a 50 note, 3 tune musical movement, can be seen at the back. This is activated by sliding the small brass shell inlaid button to the right. Sliding it back to left will ensure the movement stops once it gets to the end of the tune.

Either side of the Musical movement are two small removable treasure chest.

Now lower the front of the box. In front of the musical movement are the top two compartmented sections with ring slots and removable ear ring trays. These can be rotated out at right angles. In this position it is possible to access the secret trays in hidden underneath in their false bases.

Opening the catch on the two lower sections enables these to be rotated out at right angles as well. The top two trays can now be rotate a further 90 degrees. The small brass catches allows them to be locked under the screw heads at the back of the main box.

Access to the drawers in these lower sections is achieved by raising the knob on the sliders at the back of their trays.

Now that the box is fully open, five rear drawers are seen with a tray in the floor. Removing the tray reveals a false floor, under which are two sovereign/ $2 coin trays. Removing these and their surrounds gives access to a further three small secret drawers hidden in the back of the box.

Just ask if you want more pictures or information.

Made by Martin Burgoyne 2014/15

-- Madburg WA

28 comments so far

View KelSnake's profile


252 posts in 2291 days

#1 posted 02-05-2016 03:31 PM

Very Beautiful Work! ...and I definitely have a soft spot for secret compartments. ; )

-- Kel Snake, ~ Mystery By Design ~ Find me on Etsy ~

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 3765 days

#2 posted 02-05-2016 03:33 PM

Beautifully done Martin. Any idea on the total time creating this?

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View devann's profile


2257 posts in 3662 days

#3 posted 02-05-2016 03:36 PM

Well done! Avery impressive box. I love all of the compartments.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View kimosawboy's profile


180 posts in 3940 days

#4 posted 02-05-2016 05:24 PM

I have never been a fan of marquetry but I can appreciate the work and technique that goes into it.
I looks like you have done an amazing job with the joinery/ marquetry and the design..well done!
G Vavra

Klimt’s TheKiss is a great classic.

View jeth's profile


262 posts in 3807 days

#5 posted 02-05-2016 06:07 PM

Fantastic. I once framed a print of the kiss for my (then) partner and I thought that was a good gift, pfff

Love he marquetry and love the expansive nature of the box, from a cube like form it opens into a world of drawers and compartments.


View david38's profile


3518 posts in 3313 days

#6 posted 02-05-2016 09:46 PM

beautiful work very impressed

View Doe's profile


1437 posts in 3799 days

#7 posted 02-05-2016 10:50 PM

Stunning! That’s the most amazing box I’ve ever seen. I’ll be coming back to admire it again and again.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View WillliamMSP's profile


1108 posts in 2574 days

#8 posted 02-05-2016 11:00 PM

Wow – very nice!

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View shipwright's profile


8638 posts in 3767 days

#9 posted 02-06-2016 12:35 AM

Your marquetry is great Martin but the box itself is just incredible, certainly one of the most complex I’ve seen.
I think when you become familiar with the chevalet you will find that the tree could be cut with it.
Thanks for showing us this inspiring piece.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View bobasaurus's profile


3710 posts in 4153 days

#10 posted 02-06-2016 12:44 AM

That’s some serious effort and a very fine box.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View JL7's profile


8784 posts in 3934 days

#11 posted 02-06-2016 03:18 AM

That is so cool. Really amazing….More pictures please!

Thanks for posting…...

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View madburg's profile


311 posts in 1812 days

#12 posted 02-06-2016 04:56 AM

A few more pictures. A bit of information about a few of the innovative things in the box – well they were innovative for me!! I include some extra things in the marquetry particularly on the front and sides of the box, these were small circles of coloured veneer cut out with a leather punch, which worked well, also jewelry findings in the form of different brass beads. The beads were set in just proud after the panel was pressed and the filed/sanded down. The ‘knobs’ for the drawers at the back of the box needed to be very small. I have used dolls house furniture/door knobs in the past but these would still have been too big. So I used glass beads, brass earing findings and necklace cord to make the drop pulls. The opening of the drawers in the fold out box uses magnets in what I thought was a clever way! A slider at the back of the right hand set of drawers, which you can see open in one of the pictures has three magnets in it. In the closed position two attract magnets in the back of the drawers. When the slider is pulled up, a different combination of magnets are lined up with the drawer backs which now repel forcing the drawers open! A neat alternative to the spring mechanisms used in many antique boxes, which I also used to raise the false bottom up to reveal the coin tray. Bye the way the idea was for the coin tray to hold gold sovereigns – but my wife had to suffice with a full set of Australian $2 coins!

-- Madburg WA

View JL7's profile


8784 posts in 3934 days

#13 posted 02-06-2016 05:09 AM

Thanks! Very cool…...

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 3995 days

#14 posted 02-06-2016 06:32 AM

Great work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View Ivan's profile


16518 posts in 3837 days

#15 posted 02-06-2016 07:56 AM

WOW! Never seen something simillar, so many parts and drawers. Outside decoration is magnificant.Very nice match with blue interior.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

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