A legacy of the Arab present in Al-Andalus is the “Taracea” and it is in Granada where the craft shines for excellence. Like all ancient techniques, its origins aren’t known with certainty and they are lost in the mists of history. It seems that was used two thousand years before Christ in Mesopotamia, where it was taken by the troops of Alexander the Great. The Romans acquired when they conquered Greece and they called” incrustatio” or “loricatito”, says Pliny the Elder in his interesting book History Naturalis. However, like many other technical and scientific developments, the “taracea” was lost in Europe when the Roman Empire fell.
It resurfaced with the arrival of the Arabs that brought it from India, there came from China, where its origins go back to the Ming Dynasty about 1500 years before Christ. In Spain reached its highest point in the mid-fourteenth century, especially in Toledo and Granada: boxes, trays, tables, chairs, desks and all the furniture was built with this technique.
In the Alhambra, there are still preserved doors, furniture and chests which contribute to the magical atmosphere of the main Arab monument in Europe. The “Mudéjar” comes from those Muslims who remained in Christian territory after the Christian Reconquest of Al-Andalus, it made one of the most distinctive elements of his art. It arrived to Italy from Spain thanks to the troops of the Great Captain, which was named “Tarsia” or “Intartasia” and it became one of the most characteristic of Renaissance arts.
Currently, wood is still used, but bone or synthetic resin often used, instead of ivory or mother-of-pearl because they reproduce perfectly the white tones of these incrustations. The traditional technique consisted of empty the selected wood (walnut, rosewood, ebony, etc) using suitable chisels and gouges forming stars or isolated figures and then these spaces are filled with the introduction of ivory or bone. The design of the frets or arabesques looks for the contrast of colors so this is done using different types of woods such as mahogany, ebony, “palo-santo”, walnut wood of fruit trees, as well as bone, silver and metals.
The” taracea” doesn’t have great difficulty in understanding the techniques used, because in the end, it’s just cut and paste pieces on a base. However, the merit is located in developing a good design, choosing the different woods used, and also in the orientation of these parts, because the direction of the grain in the wood is often important, even essential in many cases. Furthermore, at the end, which makes attractive the result is the perfection to join the pieces and tonality of colors obtained.
In conclusion … a piece of art.