Museo della Tarsia Lignea is, using the word of its founder the architect and designer Alessandro Fiorentino, a special museum workshop where people can enjoy the old Sorrento’s tradition of wooden marquetry and buy the new production of hand-made objects and furnitures.
In the historic centre of Sorrento, on the two floors of the restored Palazzo Pomarici Santomasi, a rich collection of furniture and objects of typical Sorrento craftsmanship is on display, including precious pieces of furniture from the 400s to the 800s by Italian and Sorrento masters of marquetry.
The Museobottega of the Tarsia Lignea (Museum of the Inlaid Wood) is a polyfunctional structure created to requalify the sectors of decorative arts witch have not only a past worthy of being recorded but also a productivity wich needs to be sustained.
The museum is divided in four different areas, one dedicated to the wooden marquetry from 1400 to 1800, the second one is focused on the artistic techniques and tools. The third area is dedicated to the subjects and themes while the fourth zone is where objects and furnitures are shown and sold.
The Museo is located in the Palazzo Pomarici Santomasi, in the historical center of Sorrento. The use of the Palace as an exhibition space has encouraged the restoration of the original decorative elements. The restored cultural context made the Palazzo an ideal venue for exhibiting the various collections relating to the history of Sorrento and its artistic craftsmanship in the 19th century. During the restoration of the Palace, a secret staircase was discovered that had been completely walled off.
It dates back to the time when the town was pillaged by the Saracens in 1558, and was still alive. The self-supporting treads of the staircase, left open in its spiral development after restoration, are made of tufa blocks. Two rooms on the second floor of the palace have vaulted ceilings, unlike all the other rooms, which have flat ceilings made of wooden beams and planks.
The decoration develops motifs borrowed from “Chinese” decoration, typical of the 18th century. A museum workshop illustrating the techniques used to transform “mosaic” into “ricaccio”, the materials used and the decorative themes, with original pieces on display and period photos of the craftsmen at the various stages of transformation. There are still around seven hundred talented craftsmen in the region who are continuing this historic process, while modernising the design and processing stages.
A technical and artistic journey that culminates in the fitting out of the upper floor of the structure, the corners and the nineteenth-century rooms of the noble houses of Sorrento, with offices, beautiful “secretaries”, bedrooms, relaxation areas and special rooms such as the collective games boxes, right up to the new contemporary creations proposed by some of the greatest national and international designers such as Portoghesi, Sawaya, Morandini, Alison, Mendini, D’Alisi and by Fiorentino himself.
The museum’s collection includes a series of paintings by 19th-century Italian and foreign artists such as Carelli, Pitloo, La Volpe, Colemann and Scedrin, complemented by period engravings and photographs. The exhibition of the collections extends from the ground floor to the 3 upper floors, with 24 sections, equipped with explanatory panels in Italian and English and monitors that illustrate the interiors of the most important pieces of furniture. The exhibition sections have been organised to contextualise the development of marquetry in Sorrento.
The image of the town at the time of the Kingdom of Naples has been reconstructed, focusing on its urban layout before the great and devastating transformations of the nineteenth century, on the Voyageurs of the Grand Tour, on customs and on the local economy linked to the citrus fruit trade.
Other sections document Sorrento’s marquetry in the 19th century, exploring materials and processing techniques, design, production at the School of Art and Sorrento’s master marquetry craftsmen. The basement houses the exhibition of the modern collection, aimed at highlighting marquetry based on a design adapted to the culture of our time.