Meet the art of taracea in Granada

The taracea is an artisan technique that consists of the realization of figurative elements through the use of different materials, including woods of different colors, shells, ivory, mother of pearl or metals. It is used to make artistic and decorative objects and its use dates back millennia.

What is taracea?

The technique of the taracea consists of making mosaics and other figurative elements through the application of different materials that, combined with each other, create geometric shapes and drawings of infinite shapes. Thus, the different pieces fit perfectly with each other.

Taracea craftsman

For it, the artisans make several large pieces in which they gather the different materials forming the desired drawing. Then they cut them into thin sheets, which will be combined with others and finished off with metals, nacre, ivory, hawksbill, bone, etc. In some cases gold and silver are used, being able to have hundreds of different elements.

Each of these small pieces will stick on a wooden base which will support the entire combination. Thus the different parts of the furniture, chest of drawers, bargueño, jeweler or decorative element that you want to make are made.

The compositions that are created are unique thanks to the design, but also to the different materials that provide various textures and colors. And the result is always beautiful.

A little history

Its origin seems to be in Mesopotamia towards the year 3000 BC. There are also testimonies of this art in China, Turkey, etc. It will be the Romans who will introduce it to Europe in their constructions, proof of this are their impressive mosaics.

But to Spain and the Muslims brought to Granada. In this city, specifically, this technique has been configured as its own. Thus, today it is one of the most characteristic Granada handicrafts, along with its white background ceramic and blue decoration.

His name, hum, it comes from the Arabic word 'tarsí', which means inlay. And that is precisely what this technique is based on. It is one of the trades that make up the Atlas of the Intangible Heritage of Andalusia created by the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage.

The taracea in Granada

Sample of taracea - PhotoLanda /

It is one of the historical offices that the city has. We talked about a craft activity that had its maximum splendor during the Nasrid Kingdom, because most of the furniture of the Alhambra and the palaces built in the city and the valley were made by means of this technique.

The decoration that was chosen to make the furniture and objects of taracea was the same that decorated the Alhambra. Thus, the geometric figures and the decoration of the loop that populates in a monumental complex also moved to the furniture.

In the Alhambra Museum, located in the palace of Carlos V of Granada, we can see the oldest pieces of taracea They are preserved in the city. Among them, a jamuga made in silver, ivory and noble wood taracea, drawing loop wheels of eight and with engraved leather seat and back.

There, a chessboard from the 14th-15th centuries is also preserved. It has a walnut and birch wood base and is topped with metal and bone. The decoration chosen to decorate it were eight-sided stars with other stars inside.

This technique continued to be cultivated in the city with the Moors and it was used in the Mudejar roofs that populate the whole country. In them we can find stars embedded and made with materials other than those used to make the carpets and coffered ceilings.

An endangered tradition

Taracea workshop

In Granada, the tradition of the taracea has been preserved and fortunately it has come to this day. We can still find traditional workshops within the Alhambra, on the Gómerez slope and in some other areas. However, fewer and fewer artisans are engaged in its manufacture and there is little generational relief in the workshops.

The current production focuses mainly on the world of souvenir. Despite this, there are still exclusive customers who do not give up having a desk, a bargueño or any other furniture made in taracea.

Video: Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi S1E2 (April 2020).