About the Art
What is Inlay Art?
One of the most attractive work of art that comes from marble is”Marble Inlay” work. It is the same work that adorns the Taj Mahal and other Mughal monuments.
It is a closely protected traditional art and only a few expert exponents are available today. The delicate process involves cutting and engraving marble shapes manually. To start with, a predefined pattern e.g., floral design or geometrical design is engraved on the marble slab. Small pieces of marble of different shades are cut delicately to fit in these grooves precisely. These small pieces are then slipped in the grooves. Apart from marble, many other materials can also be used.
Precious and Semi-Precious Gemstones are set in marble in such a way that they shine like gems set in a ring. The technique of inlaying marble is essentially no different from that used in the Taj Mahal.
The marble stone is first traced with the pattern of brass sheet. The pattern may be of any shape, design or size. The quarried marble is then cut to size and painstakingly sculpted. Once the desired contours are achieved, small indentation (grooves) are created by hand on the marble stone base to hold the gemstones.
The different colored stones, Precious and Semi Precious, are cut as per the design/size of the Pattern . The cut stone fit perfectly into the marble. After the stones are set in place, the piece is polished to a rich luster.
History of Inlay Art
The birth of Inlay Art began in Florence, Italy during the 16th Century. The Art of Inlay was brought to India by the Mughals in the 17th Century especially in Agra City.
Introduced to India during the regime of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan Inlay Art was very popular in architecture as well as in sculptures. White marble monuments incorporated with Inlay Artwork were also constructed. The most famous & well-known being the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal, constructed by thousands of skilled artisans, depicts the great art of inlay on a grand scale. The Taj Mahal is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and the finest example of the late style of Indian Islamic architecture. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered it built in 1631 after the death of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The white marble exterior is inlaid with semiprecious stones arranged in Arabic inscriptions (designed by a local artist Amanat Khan, who was Shah Jahan’s calligrapher), floral designs, and arabesques, and the salient features of the interior are accented with agate, jasper, and colored marbles.
The building, which was completed between 1632 and 1638, was designed to reflect the gardens of Paradise to which the faithful ascend. The entire complex, with gardens, gateway structures, and mosque, was completed in 1648.
Inlays Art is still very popular in India allowing many artisans to earn their livelihood from this wonderful Art.
The work begins with the selection of a stone for carving. The artist may carve in the direct way, by carving without a model. Or the sculptor may begin with a clearly defined model to be copied in stone. Frequently the sculptor would begin by forming a model in clay or wax, and then copying this in stone by measuring with calipers or a pointing machine. Some artists use the stone itself as inspiration; the Renaissance artist Michelangeloclaimed that his job was to free the human form trapped inside the block.
When he or she is ready to carve, the carver usually begins by knocking off, or “pitching”, large portions of unwanted stone. For this task he may select a point chisel, which is a long, hefty piece of steel with a point at one end and a broad striking surface at the other. A pitching tool may also be used at this early stage, which is a wedge-shaped chisel with a broad, flat edge. The pitching tool is useful for splitting the stone and removing large, unwanted chunks. The sculptor also selects a mallet, which is often a hammer with a broad, barrel-shaped head.
The carver places the point of the chisel or the edge of the pitching tool against a selected part of the stone, then swings the mallet at it with a controlled stroke. He must be careful to strike the end of the tool accurately; the smallest miscalculation can damage the stone, not to mention the sculptor’s hand. When the mallet connects to the tool, energy is transferred along the tool, shattering the stone. Most sculptors work rhythmically, turning the tool with each blow so that the stone is removed quickly and evenly. This is the “roughing out” stage of the sculpting process.
Once the general shape of the statue has been determined, the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure. A toothed chisel or claw chisel has multiple gouging surfaces which create parallel lines in the stone. These tools are generally used to add texture to the figure. An artist might mark out specific lines by using calipers to measure an area of stone to be addressed, and marking the removal area with pencil, charcoal or chalk. The stone carver generally uses a shallower stroke at this point in the process.
Eventually the sculptor has changed the stone from a rough block into the general shape of the finished statue. Tools called rasps and rifflers are then used to enhance the shape into its final form. A rasp is a flat, steel tool with a coarse surface. The sculptor uses broad, sweeping strokes to remove excess stone as small chips or dust. A riffler is a smaller variation of the rasp, which can be used to create details such as folds of clothing or locks of hair.
The final stage of the carving process is polishing. Sandpaper can be used as a first step in the polishing process, or sand cloth. Emery, a stone that is harder and rougher than the sculpture media, is also used in the finishing process. This abrading, or wearing away, brings out the color of the stone, reveals patterns in the surface and adds a sheen. Tin and iron oxides are often used to give the stone a highly reflective exterior.