Pietra Dura | Inlay work

Pietra Dura

Pietra dura

Pietra Dura is an inlaying technique usually associated with workshops in Florence, Italy, used to describe sculptural or decorative use of hard stones to decorate furniture, cameos, vases, and panels with various stones such as malachite, lapis lazuli, and jasper.


History of Pietra Dura:

Pietra dura is an Italian phrase that means “hard stone,” and usually refers to the technique of creating intricate inlaid pictures from shaped colored stones. The stones used are usually silicates, including agates, alabaster, amethyst, jade, jasper, lapis lazuli, malachite, onyx, and topaz. The craft, developed in antiquity, originally consisted of shaping stones with small saws, wires and other metal instruments and adding them to decorative objects such as vases or small sculptures. The art was revived during the Renaissance by Italian craftsmen and the first hard-stone workshop was established by the Medici family in Florence in 1588. The art was also practiced at the courts of Naples, Madrid, Prague, Paris and elsewhere. From the late 16th century, the colorful stones were arranged on furniture as landscapes and flower scenes.


Difference between Indian Inlay & Pietra Dura?

Unlike the pietra dura of Italy and particularly the Florentine tradition, Indian inlay work is not three-dimensional but more flat. The Mughal adaptations have ensured that the European birds have been replaced by the Indian kingfisher, myna, and red-breasted parakeet.

With the exit of the Mughals, the art of marble inlay work also started to decline. The number of craftsmen engaged in this art began to dwindle. So much so that in the mid-19th century there were only 100 craftsmen specializing in this work.

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