The Art Of Marquetry

artiganatoTalking about Sorrento our thought is directed immediately towards its opulent gardens, blooming with oranges and lemons, towards its deep blue sea and its natural beauties. Always a font of inspiration for poets and writers and composers, who have transferred their emotions into a myriad of poetry and through the verses of many a song! However, Sorrento is also a city full of art. Simple art created by simple, natural and human men, hence, marquetry. The manual laboriousness and the creative fantasy of the Sorrentine artisan masters of which their works have bourne and still bear today, the name of Sorrento, also throughout the world. The art was developed mainly in the first half of the 19th century, becoming a primary activity for the economy of the Sorrentine people. The work was imposed on the collaboration and the participation of various workers, hence, the designer who created the design to be cut out.

Afterwards, the pieces obtained were fixed with fish glue on to a support of compressed paper and transferred by expert workers on to furniture or objects to be decorated. The latter work was given to a person with artistic inclinations,who with ink from China enhanced the details of birds, cherubs etc. with white or black ink.Whilst the final touch was given to the polisher, who with vanish gomma-lacca or French polish, fixed the work with elbow grease! Some examples produced in the last century can be seen in the Correale Museum, where a hall is dedicated to the Sorrentine Collection of ‘Saltovar’ who in 1937 donated his collection to the museum. The museum was set up from a private foundation by the Correale brothers Alfredo and Pompeo, the Counts of Terranova. They were the last descendants of an old Sorrentine family and in their wills they made provision for Villa Correale and the art collections housed there to be turned into a museum bearing their name. In addition to the art treasures and the building in which they are housed this bequest also included the garden and a large area of farm land the produce of which is sold to contribute to the upkeep of the museum.

Set up as an institution with the Royal Decree of February 18 1904,the museum was opened to the public on May 10 1924. The collections are laid out on three floors in 24 rooms plus the attic which has recently been renovated for use as an exhibiting area. The ceramics of Vietri, works of great worth, such as dishware, ornamental objects, and majolica are the product of an artisanal activity which, thanks to the Etruscans, we are able to date as far back as the 5 th century BC.A ship-wreck was recently found on the ocean floor near Panarea with a cargo of dishware, ceramics, tiles, and jugs, all objects of heated commercial trade even at that time.

Ceramic production has never ceased and in the 16th century we find documentation of many products from Cava de Tirreni and Vietri such as ‘plates, tubes, urns, and bowls of wite clay’ for exportation. In the 18th century, as happened near Naples, Vietri was producing characteristic ‘riggioli’ (tiles) which differed from the Napolitan ones in colour, using more tetenuous shades, dark-bluish-grey, pulp-green, and mustard yellow. The dishware of this period has its own distinct identity,different from the Neapolitan model in its pattern(not as thick),and using a delicate blue in its colour-scheme. In the 19th century, which made fortunes in Vietri and even today the ceramics are characterized by naïve motifs underlined by brilliant and solar colours, reflecting the spontaneity and cordiality of the artisans of Vietri.

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