"HOW THE DUCK INTARSIAS WERE MADE"

Baldpate

   The making of the duck intarsias has filled a need in providing a worthwhile interest that has helped keep a retired Senior Citizen in a most happy mood. An accomplishment such as this is always gratifying. It is especially so to the ones whose ages have placed them in an age group that society as a whole has a tendency to disparage. When many in the viewing public have acclaimed "How very real and how beautiful," you feel amply repaid. Perhaps you attended the Oklahoma City show, perhaps you saw the three duck intarsias on display there and perhaps you were the very one who made the comment quoted above, that I overheard early in the show.
   I would like to add one more paragraph. It may be in the nature of a conversation piece. Just what is a true intarsia? Is it not possible that we have, in the strictest sense of the word, been using the term intarsia incorrectly? The Encyclopedia Britannica does not list intarsia in a separate Category. It is included in one of the subsections in the article on mosaics. The Encyclopedia defines intarsia as "an inlay of wood or enamel. It is not ordinarily embraced by the term mosaic." Webster defines intarsia as "the inlaying of wood in a background of wood." The last definition would indicate that the intarsia (and mosaics also) must have their backgrounds completely blocked in. Blocked in with wood if it is an intarsia and with stone if it is a mosaic. Many beautiful stone pictures are presently being made in Italy and have been for a good many years. These stone pictures have always been called intarsias as far as I have been able to determine. I think the continued use of the word intarsia, applying it as we always have,will soon qualify it as correct usage. Even Webster has hd to recognize the continued use of the term "ain't." It is listed in the unabridged but not accepted as good usage. The definition is, in part, :now being used in illiterate speech." So I think we may continue to use the term intarsia for our stone pictures and still not approach "illiterate speech." We may not be using much wood as Webster would wish but we are using plenty of petrified wood. Have fun.
(Editor's note: The Lapidary Journal joins Mr. Smart in believing that the word intarsia, that is a picture made up of stone parts each ground and fitted to shape, of different colors to simulate the color tones within a picture, is a rightful and proper use of the word to convey what is meant. We have seen many beautiful intarsia made of carefully selected and fitted pieces of wood veneer, but then the lapidary came along and added a new and modern meaning of his own.
   A mosaic on the other hand, is a stone picture made of inlaying in patterns of small bits and pieces of stone, glass or other material, not specifically cut and fitted to a close joint, each to each other. The old Roman word for these was tesserae, "a small bit of marble, glass or the like, having a square face, used in mosaic work, as for pavements, walls, etc." In mosaic, the finished effect depends upon the blending of the various dots or pieces, each of a separate single color, for the finished effect, just as a 4-color engraving, if magnified will be seen to be made up of a multitude of dots, each of a single color. Color-association brings about a blending to give the effects seen in a fine mosaic.
   On the other hand, each single piece in an intarsia may carry shading or blending of pattern and figure as well as color. The dictionaries of the world will some day catch up with the lapidary arts of the amateur gem cutter... in the meantime, we shall continue to use newer terms in the sense we believe they should convey.)

Webmasters note:
   Because of ignorance, most "art historians," both in the fine art world and the folk art world, in regard to what they consider is and what is not art, work with gemstones isn't even in their vocabulary. They have delegated the masterpieces of what are commonly called Florentine Mosaics (a more correct term for what Americans call intarsia, Roman Mosaic is the term for pieces made described by the Lapidary Journal above) to be simply a decorative art. During the 16th and 17th centuries this form of art was understood and being so highly considered and recognized that the "intarsiatores" were usually paid more than the painters and sculptors.
   The actual words used for what Charles Smart and most other Americans created have been around for centuries and are clearly defined in the literature created in Florence. Charles's style of work is properly called Commesso, which is the application of material side to side to create a design. Intarsia implies the inlaying of material into a base. Stone intarsias are usually inlayed in a base of black marble or slate, but other marbles have been used. Intarsia is also a common term for a form of wood inlay, usually thick pieces put together to form a picture, but Marquetry is a more correct term for the inlay of wood veneers.
   Due to the now common use of the term intarsia, I have used it (usually in parenthesis) along with the correct term Commesso in this website,

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