Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Intarsia - Wooden Mosaics

Intarsia are mosaics made of pieces of inlaid wood. This mosaic form is enjoying an insurgence of popularity in contemporary art.

To construct intarsia, outlined drawings are used as templates for cutting many pieces of wood (sometimes up to a thousand or more). Different colors of wood provide the different shadings. Sometimes stains, bleaches, or heat are applied to the wood to provide a wider range of tones but the wood is never painted nor otherwise tinted.

This rose is made from white pine, blood wood and cedar:

Intarsia reached a peak in northern Italy back in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Many outstanding examples of the earlier period feature polyhedra, which are geometric objects with flat faces and straight edges.

Here are four intarsia panels that were constructed around 1520 by by Italian artist, Fra Giovanni da Verona. The first pair is in the Monastery of Monte Olivetto Maggiore (near Siena) and the second pair is from the church of Santa Maria in Organo, Verona.

This first example features a 72-sided sphere called a “mazzocchio”, and various instruments of the geometer.

This second one features an "elevated icosidodecahedron," which is a complex nonconvex polyhedron which can be constructed by erecting a pyramid of equilateral triangles on each face of an icosidodecahedron. The use of the mazzocchio goes back to the Rennaisance painter, Paolo Uccello. The other polyhedra are based on Leonardo di Vinci’s drawings of "solid edge" models, published in Pacioli's influential 1509 book, “The Divine Proportion”.

Note that these intarsia examples are perfectly flat panels. The appearance of open cupboard doors is a trompe l'oeil effect of the masterful perspective. The same effect is used in others of Fra Giovanni's panels. The next one below features the same 72-sided sphere, along with an icosahedron and a truncated icosahedron, which is a basic structural system with 20 faces and 5 triangles around each of its 12 vertices.. The panel after that features a cube with equilateral pyramids erected on each face, a cuboctahedron, and again the elevated icosidodecahedron. (A cuboctahedron is a polyhedron with eight triangular faces and six square faces. It has 12 identical vertices, with two triangles and two squares meeting at each, and 24 identical edges, each separating a triangle from a square.)

What follows is a video showing a contemporary artist trying his hand at an intarsia rose. It isn't the most thrilling video I've ever seen, but it will give you an idea of how the process of making intarsia is executed..

(If the video won’t play for you, click HERE)

1 comment:

Sophia Benn said...

Intricate designs require some advanced skills in woodworking and are usually made through carving. This kind of woodworking designs can also go from simple like basic shapes (circles, squares, hearts, stars etc.) to complex patterns like floral garlands or even scenes or landscapes. The latter require a lot of attention for details and focus. Thus, the best intricate designs are made using sharp cutting tools. Sometimes, additional devices are used for even a more beautiful effect. One such device can be the pyrographer, which helps the crafter make extremely detailed patterns with a fine touch.

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