To talk about the inlay in Sorrento means to talk about the history of the city and the Peninsula.
The art of inlay consists of cutting and assembling little pieces of wood used for reproducing mosaics, ornaments and images.
From the popular tradition, the origin of Sorrento inlay dates back to the time of the “Benedettini Monks”, between the XVI and the XV century, when they lived in the Sant’Agrippino Monastery. Sant’Antonino (patron of Sorrento city) became abbot of that monastery in 618 a.C. Monks used to inlay and carve in their laboratory with woods of local production: walnut-tree, lemon and orange tree.
Artists, putting together different and colored pieces of wood, realized faked closets with inside still life, windows that showed perspective views, faked niches of saints, religious characters and allegorical figure. The first woodcarvers Masters are Antonio Damora, Michele Grandville and Luigi Gargiulo. They have been influenced by Pompell and Herculaneum excavations and also by the Neapolitan painting of 800. In the first part of XIX century the inlay became the pillar of local economy thanks to the three Masters and also to the great flow of tourists from the Grand Tour. Certainly, working in a well-known city of vacation, the success has been due to the possibility to show their production to people coming from the whole Europe. Overtime, the traditional technique of inlay consists of putting together different and colored pieces of wood also thanks to the technique of “burn”, improved from the method of the retouch called “ricaccio” by the use of Indian Ink and light tones to underline the image. It’s typical of French inlay. The old technique of the second part
of 800 was changed also by another procedure: the use of artificially colored woods. In this way they could satisfy modern and innovative tastes of people. Until the 1990s the inlay was source of job and maintenance for around 200 families. Only in the historical center of Sorrento there were about 10 laboratories with 10-20 workers and about 20 small shop concentrated above all in Via Fuoro and Via San Nicola. Other male and female workers in their houses took part in the different stages of the production of inlaid works. After a critical period due to entry of serial products into the market, the inlay is resurfacing thanks to the advertising of the product, the new Importance of homemade device and also to young artisans that adapt themselves to new trends.
Sorrento Inlaid wood Artisans Association
Among the expressive forms of art that characterize the history of the Sorrento Peninsula, it is essential to include the Inlay that has its roots in the Benedictine monasteries of the Middle Ages.
This skillful practice of reproducing drawings by shaping and assembling together small layers of local timber such as walnut, lemon and orange, has undergone numerous changes over time, without ever abandoning the techniques handed down by predecessors.
Today the tradition of Sorrento inlad wood is promoted by a series of artisans driven by the desire to give new life to an art that is as precious as it is fragile and ancient, which cannot run the risk of extinction.
To this end it hides “Sorrento Inlaid wood Artisans Association”, eager to develop the inlay and carpentry bringing them closer to the demands of a market increasingly demanding and constantly evolving. Furthermore, another fundamental objective, is to encourage the training and integration of young people, who intend to continue this activity, through training courses organized in collaboration with schools. In this way, present and past merge in a project to relaunch the Inlaid wood art, to build the foundations for a future in which an art that has determined the economic and historical wealth of the city of Sorrento will not be forgotten.