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Beauty for the Eye And Ear: Sorrento Music Boxes


In America, there is a name brand of cheese known as Sorrento, including a highly regarded mozzarella, one of the quintessential cheeses of Italian cooking.  Sorrento is a name for another uniquely Italian traditional sensory delight – Sorrento music boxes.  They don’t just play a charming, achingly sweet tune, but their containers are works of high artistic value.  They are a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.

Part Of Italian Heritage

Italy used to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, not only during the height of the Roman Empire, but also during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when it was the main port of worldwide trade.  With all of its wealth, Italy’s upper classes could indulge in the sensual and the artistic.  They hired innovative artists and craftsmen to make sumptuous art of all kinds.  Sorrento music boxes certainly continue in this tradition.

Although the metallic music mechanism was arguably invented in Switzerland, Sorrento music boxes were the first to pair a unique sound with a unique display case.  Even if Sorrento music boxes can’t play their tunes anymore, they are still highly sought after for their appearance of intricately wood inlaid boxes (called marquetry).  This is a very difficult art form, requiring tremendous planning, patience and luck.  No other make of music box has this inlaid wood artwork, not even Regina music boxes which came out in America.

What’s So Special About Inlaid Wood?

Instead of using crayons or paints to draw a picture, you instead use tiny pieces of wood (stained or not).  A wood inlay becomes a huge labor-intensive project requiring a vast knowledge of wood.  Sorrento music boxes often have about 15 different kinds of wood in them.  Nowadays, the wood is often painted to keep up with demand and make it more colorful, but the oldest Sorrento Music Boxes can cost many thousands of American or Canadian dollars.

Marquetry is an art form that blossomed in Sorrento in the 1600’s, so it was only natural that it would pair another art form in Sorrento.  The inlaid wood process cannot be duplicated by a machine.  They must be done by hand.  This is one reason why Sorrento music boxes are so expensive.  But, they are unique piece of art, using the music box as a canvas.  If you ever discover that you have been given a Sorrento music box, thank your lucky stars and get it insured.


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    Filed Under: Japanese Music Boxes Tagged with regina music boxes, sorrento music boxes