Pietra Dura Artwork

This Italian stone inlay differs from mosaics because no grout is used in the seams

Your pietra dura picture is Italian and dates to the late 19th century. Pietra dura is an Italian term for the process of inlaying stone to form a pictorial or patterned design. Marble, semi-precious and even sometimes precious stones are cut and sliced using saws, wires, files, polishing cloths and other tools. The cut stones are then inset and glued down onto a stone substrate to create a design. The stones are so tightly fit together that the seams are difficult to see; pieta dura is unlike a mosaic that has grout between its joints. Artisans creating pietra dura utilize the natural and inherent properties in different stones to add to the imagery and detail.

Pietra dura developed in ancient Rome and was first used architecturally in floors. During the Italian Renaissance in Florence, the Medici family created a workshop where pietra dura began being used for more portable decorative art, such as table tops, drawer fronts, framed pictures and jewelry.

Widely considered a prized and coveted form, the popularity of pieta dura spread through Europe and into India. In the 17th century, the Taj Mahal was built and pietra dura (called Parchin Kari in India) was incorporated in its design, enabling the stone inlay industry to flourish.

Pietra dura can be quite valuable. We just appraised a more contemporary pietra dura dining table at $25,000. Pieces dating from the Renaissance through the 18th century can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your piece was made in the mid- to late-19th century in Italy and depicts an Italian villa on a hillside. It is made from a variety of marble, tiger’s eye and quartzite and is signed with a monogram by the artist.

As it is a smaller work with some condition issues and not too detailed, I would estimate its value at $200.

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