A Brief History of Marble Inlay (Pietra Dura)
Inlay work on marble is also known as Pietra Dura, a word derived from the Roman Language. It is the knowledge, which has been passed on by master craftsmen to their ablest of progeny since 500 B.C. At present this art has an impression of 3 ancient civilizations upon IT. As Romans first created this art, it is very much visible at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence. Since then, it has traveled from Rome to Persia and then to India. During the making of the Taj Mahal, Emperor Shahjahan was looking for an art form by which the Taj Mahal could be decorated and ornamented. He researched a lot about contemporary options like glass/mirror work, silver/gold work, different kinds of carving etc. Before Taj Mahal, a building that was known as the Etmad-ud-daula, (Tourists today call it the Baby Taj) had been built by Empress Noor-Jahan in the memory of her late father who hailed from Persia. She introduced the art of marble inlay work in this monument for the first time in India. Shahjahan took the inspiration of the Pietra Dura from this monument and sent his artisans to Persia to study more about this art form and to bring back the finest artisans from Persia. So this art has been influenced by three major and ancient contemporary civilizations. This is highly evident in the specific areas i.e. the technique for this art is Roman, theme is Persian (signifying Floral – garden- nature) and the pattern & design is Indian (based on symmetry – harmony – elegance). In other words Inlay Work is a synchronization of the semi precious stones of different colors in harmony.
Existence of this Art at Present
It would not be an overstatement to say that Pietra Dura runs in the brain of artisans. They are themselves treasure chests. It is their masterly skills and immaculate craftsmanship, which sustains this blending of gemstone into a floral pattern par excellence. Pietra Dura in Agra is a living heritage. Following are the artifacts of inlay work available on different base stones:
- Table Tops : Corner Tables, Center Tables, Coffee Tables, Dining Tables & Conference Tables.
- Wall Panels
- Floor Medallions
- Wall Runner Borders
- Floor Borders
- Decorative Plates / Dishes / Trays
- Flower Vases
- Coaster Sets
- Decorative Jewelry Boxes
- Object de Arts : Candle Holders, Pen Holders, Table/ Wall Clock, Decorative Bowls, Table Lamps, Decorative Pots/ Pitchers, Wine Cups
- Decorative Elephants
What makes it unique?
This irradiant artwork makes every piece exclusive and rare. Nature ordains that no two-semi precious stones will have the same texture, color, radiance and luster. Even if the patterns are copied, it is impossible to imitate the complexion of the semi precious stones, as all semi precious stones are natural. Therefore what you have in your possession is truly unique, the only one of its kind. Each semi precious stone is genuine for its purity.
Take it and pass it on to your next generation.
Identical or very similar recreation of inlay work is impossible if natural semi precious stones are supposed to be used. Some of the semi-precious stones often utilized in Marble Inlay Work and their specific areas are: Italian Travertine from Italy, Jumbo from Italy, Petrified Wood –A stone from the Amazon River in South America, Pyzer form Australia, Ratak from India, Jade from Australia, Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, Agate from Myanmar etc.