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Pietra Dura - An Intricate Inlaying Decorative Art

Updated on July 3, 2019

Pietra dura is an Italian word, meaning 'hard stone'. It signifies the technique of inlaying of pieces of coloured stones resulting into some images representing a decorative art. This art is very old, appearing in Rome in 16th century. Subsequently, it reached Florence to attain the status of a fully developed art. The final product after inlaying is mostly a unique polished surface and continues to be a major attraction in stone carving.

In India, many historical buildings like The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort at Agra and Red Fort at Delhi exhibit this art where marble and semi-precious sotnes have been used. Other countires also have used this art for various purposes.

The intro photo is a table top which is very popular among tourists visiting Agra. Incidentally, it is copy of an art work at the famous Taj Mahal.

Pietra dura at Red Fort, Delhi


The famous Red Fort at Delhi has a beautiful floral patterns inlaid in the Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audiences, used by Emperor Shah Jahan. This 17th century structure bears testimony to the tastes of the Emperor and these floral decorations in this Hall are still attracting tourists.


The complete work with flowers, both inside and outer border, can be observed in the above picture of a column at Red Fort, Delhi. The cost factor did not deter the ruler from presenting the best possible Pietra dura of that time.

Taj Mahal, Agra - Outer Picture


The outer walls of Taj Mahal, the world famous monument of love at Agra, have beautiful floral arranged over raised floral decorative patterns. The marble positioned inside and outside this monument reminds one of the mastery achieved by the artisans in carving.

Taj Mahal, Agra - Inner Chamber


The Inner Chamber of Taj Mahal has cenotaphs of Emperor Shah Jahan and Queen Mumtaj Mahal. Both have been tastefully decorated with Pietra dura on all sides.

Jali - Screens used at Taj Mahal


Screens (Jali) used in the Taj Mahal are also unique that these are decorated with inlaying of coloured stones. The patterns used here are also appealing.

Musamman Burj in the Agra Fort, Agra


Musamman Burj in the Agra Fort at Agra is a beautiful octagonal structure built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaj Mahal. Built between 1631-40, this tower has decorations on the walls done with Pietra dura. The column shown above is an example of the intricate artistic work done in this building.

Details of columns of Musamman Burj


Detail of the artistic work in the columns of Musamman Burj can be seen here. It is an irony of fate that Emperor Shah Jahan had to live in captivity in this Burj during his last days. He could only see Taj Mahal from the window of this building.

Diwan-e-Khas of Agra Fort


The story of decorations does not end with Mussamman Burj but other buidings in the campus of the Fort also have Pietra dura work. Excellent multi-coloured stone decorations on marble pillars in the Diwan-e Khas (House of Lords) of Agra Fort are other examples of artistic passion of the rulers at that time.

Interior of Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Dubrovnik, Croatia


It is not only in India alone but there are other countries also where beautiful artistic work has been done using Pietra dura. One such beautiful example is Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Dubrovnik in Croatia. The colour combination, symmetry ad the design are fantastic.

Furniture support medallions with hard stone, France


It is not only walls or columns where this art has been used. But it has also found a place in floor mosaic and some items for domestic use. Furniture support medallions with hard stone in France shown above is an example of it.

Explaining the whole process of Pietra Dura inlaying

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