Royal Magnificience. Florentine pietra dura mosaics: Jewellery, Objects of Vertu, Works of Art

This presentation explores the fantastic world of semi-precious stones and their use in pictorial mosaics, a rare and sophisticated art that exploits the natural chromatic qualities of hardstones to create what really is a painting in stone.
In the Florentine late Renaissance, lapidaries at the Granducal court of the Medici family were fascinated by the infinite range of colours of stones and began to improve the intarsia or ‘commesso’ process to produce pietra dura panels depicting various subjects such as flowers, landscapes, figures, and animals. Mastering the palette of natural colors offered by nature through the stones, they managed to obtain virtuoso effects resembling painted brushstrokes.
The unique technique was perfected thanks to collaboration between lapidaries, jewelersand painters – and the determination of the Medici Grand Dukes in Florence, who invested huge resources and energy in the pietra dura workshop, officially established by Ferdinando I de’ Medici in 1588 under the name of Galleria dei Lavori.
The Florentine Grand Dukes promoted the sourcing of rare precious and semiprecious stones and the exploration of local quarries in order to supply the needs of mosaic production. But the quest for materials went well beyond the borders of the grand-duchy territories, reaching as far afield as Corsica, Sicily, the Alps, Germany, and even South America and India.

The semi-precious stone mosaic became a typical Florentine art, and the craftsmen of the grand ducal workshop were invited to various European royal courts between the 1600s and 1700s to found manufacturies similar to the Florentine one. Because of the pieces’ worth and uniqueness, commissions for pietra dura jewels, snuffboxes, wall panels, cabinets, caskets and table tops were the preserve of nobles and aristocrats.
Only in Florence has this tradition been perpetuated, thanks to the creation of independent pietra dura studios during the nineteenth century.
This talk will be accompanied by a wide selection of slides showing some of the most spectacular and rare Florentine works of art in semi-precious stones, much sought-after by passionate collectors today and commanding some of the highest prices in the art market.

Anna Maria Massinelli will be signing her book at the Letu Books booth after her talk.