Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mosaico Fiorentino

One of the things that Florence is famous for is art.  Sculptures such as Michelangelo's "David" and paintings such as Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" are all found here.  There is another form of art, however, that you may not know that Florence is famous for.

Back in the 1500's, the Medici family became extremely found of pietre dure - a form of mosaic where different colored stones are cut, fitted together, and then polished to form a picture.

In 1588, the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de'Medici established the Opificio della Pietre Dura, a workshop where these magnificent works of art would be produced.  Today, the Opificio is still there, and there is a very nice museum where you can see hundreds of examples of this form of artwork.

On one wall in the museum, they have a set of paintings representing the arts hanging below a set of mosaic copies of the paintings.  The comparison between the two different media is amazing.

The painting (representing the art of music)

The mosaic version

The mosaic version is a bit "brighter", but other than that, unless you look closely, it is very difficult to differentiate between the two.

A close up of the mosaic version of the painting.  You can see the tiny seams between the cut stones.
The museum houses splendid mosaic topped tables as well as other furniture pieces that feature the stonework.

Upstairs, there is a large display of workbenches and tools that were used over the ages by the mosaic artists.  There is also along the wall, next to the workbenches, examples of the different types of stone used in these works of art.

The museum is rarely crowded.  Once when we visited, there were only 5 other people there.  Tickets are only 2 euro, and they are open during the day Monday - Saturday from 8:15am - 2pm, with extended hours on Thursdays, when they close at 7pm (they are closed Sundays and holidays).  It's definitely worth an hour or so of your time while you're in Florence.  It's located at Via degli Alfani, 78, which is right around the corner from l'Accademia (where David resides).

During my first trip to Florence, my boyfriend took me to Scarpelli Mosaici, which is a workshop headed up by father and son master craftsmen Renzo and Lorenzo Scarpelli.  There is a small shop where you can look at (and purchase, if you can afford to) some of their pieces of art.  While we were there, we met Maestro Renzo who brought us back to his workbench, explained the process of Florentine mosaic and showed us how he cuts the stones and fits them together using wax.  (The photos in this blog post are all from the Opificio museum.  I was too entranced to take photos when Renzo was showing us his craft!)

It starts with a drawing, then the artist carefully chooses the type of stones that he wants to use in the piece.  He will used his trained eye to pick out the perfect piece, one that has natural shading where he wants it.  Then, he will use an ancient tool, a bow with a metal wire, to carefully cut out the intricate shape.  (Some modern workshops use modern electric saws to cut out the pieces, but Scarpelli crafts their pieces using only traditional methods)

After cutting out the shape, he then smooths out the edges and fits it into place.

This small flower is comprised of over 40 cut pieces of stone.  Large, more detailed pieces can contain hundreds, even thousands of pieces that were individually cut out of various stones.

You can visit the Scapelli's shop while in Florence.  They are located at Via Ricasoli, 59r, which is just down the street from l'Accademia.  As you walk toward the Duomo, it will be on your right.  There is no charge to browse the gallery and those who work there are very friendly and more than happy to explain the process of making Florentine mosaic (Mayumi was the one who talked to us before we talked to Renzo. She speaks several languages, so you should have no problem while you are there).

So, when you are wandering around Florence, maybe after visiting David at l'Accademia, stop by one or both of these fantastic sites to lay your eyes on some amazing works of art!

1 comment:

  1. Adorei seus comentários, muito obrigada por compartilhar. vou a Florença em outubro e estou procurando por mosaicos. Abç