Woodworking. The Cypress.


Cupressus Sempervirens ( Cupresaceae)

Its name comes from Cyprus, this tree is native to Western Asia, and has been present forthousands of years in the Mediterranean basin. (1)

For more information you can read Ming Zhi Zhou's Master paper: Contribution to the identification of cypress trees in the Languedoc Roussillon and PACA regions by image analysis at very high spatial resolution (2)

Its exceptional longevity beyond 500 years and its slow growth, gives it the symbol of immortality. It is probably for this reason that the body of Charles VII was placed in a cypress box.

In this regard, the CNRS has just identified in Chile in the National Park of Alerce Costero a Cypress of Pantagonia (Fitzroya cupressoides) known under the name of "Gran Abuelo" as the oldest tree recorded: it would be 5484 years old (estimate).

Its wood is ivory to brown in color with dark veins and a pinkish tinge. Its fine and homogeneous grain includes many knots making it difficult to saw. By slicing it is possible to obtain mottled and brambly veneers.

Rot-proof & odoriferous.

The Egyptians used cypress for sarcophagi. As for the Greeks and Romans, they used cypress for multiple purposes, carpentry, sculptures etc.

In France, it was very appreciated until the 13th century. Étienne Boileau quotes it as being equal to ebony. King Charles V owns "Chayère" in cypress and in the following century the Duke of Berry has tables in cypress.

In 1455, according to Gay, cypress was used among other things for chests. The small Palace preserves an interesting two-body wardrobe of the 16th century where cypress is one of the woods used.

In the 16th and 18th centuries, cabinet making had many exotic woods available which limited the interest of cypress. It then became a secondary wood whose use was limited to a detail of ornamentation or an element of marquetry. At the same time during the reign of Murad III (1574-1595) Iznik ceramics produced dishes decorated with cypress. One example is visible in the National Museum of the Renaissance in Ecouen. Albarelli of the same origin with cypress decoration in siliceous ceramics with blue-white hues are also visible in the Louvre Museum.

In the 19th century, Cypress was still used for cabinet making but its use remained limited. During this same period, painters, especially symbolists, developed a renewed interest in its image. See the works of Félix Ziem (Beaune 26-02-1821- Paris 10-11-1911) at the Petit Palais. (4) or those of Edmond Cross at the Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva.

Currently it sometimes replaces the yew for furniture called rustic where we draw a decorative effect of veneers figured bramble, marbled through the presence of many knots.

Bibliography: Jacqueline Viaux-Locquin* Cabinetwork in French furniture. Sheet 41 P85