is Intarsian Painting?
Not to be confused with the woodworking
technique of intarsia, Intarsian Painting is a form of decorative
painting where wood inlay and traditional intarsia woodworking
are imitated by painting.
It is sometimes called "Intarsian
What is Intarsia?
Intarsia (pronounced "in-tar'-see-a")
is a woodworking technique based on a 15th century Italian artform.
It is probably most accurately described as the making of pictorial
mosaics by laying precious and exotic materials into or onto
a groundwork of solid wood.
Italian authorities have suggested that
the term "Intarsia" is derived from the Latin verb interserere which
means "to insert or the process of inlaying wood".
Intarsia is similar to inlay, but where
inlay is flat, intarsia is three-dimensional. This effect is
achieved by a series of steps. Using a two dimensional pattern
created on paper, contrasting woods and grains (e.g. walnut,
oak, cherry, mountain ash pine, western red cedar, juniper, cottonwood,
poplar, maple, Russian olive, apple and elm) are assigned to
the design. Then the woods are cut, sanded, assembled and glued
to a backboard. Intarsia woods are never stained so that they
retain their original wood colour. All Intarsia is finished with
a high gloss, clear polyacrylic coating.
The process of inlaying one wood into another
is now referred to as marquetry, with the difference being that
a thinner veneer is used.
origins of Intarsian Painting
Intarsian painting probably originated
during the Biedermeier Era which is
as being between
the years 1815, the end of the Napoleon Wars, and 1848, the year
of the European revolutions. It is believed that painted
decoration during this period was used to imitate the furniture
of the wealthy which
were usually ornate pieces with inlays and intarsia work painstakingly
Artisans would perform the "imitation" work
applying stencils on bare wood to imitate various inlaid materials.
would involve florals and sometimes birds. Floral designs were
understated - usually small bouquets with ribbons and dainty
borders and not much of an area on the objects were decorated so
attention was devoted to showing off the woodgrain.
In today's intarsian painting, faux woodgrain
backgrounds - usually woods and veneers used in intarsia and marquetry
are painted onto the project surfaces. And following the tradition
of stencilling, inlay work is imitated using stencil cut-outs.
Various kinds of woodgrains are incorporated
in the geometric design of this small bin.
A rather ornate design was
painted on this pencil box using the intarsian painting technique.