The Museum of "Le Pietre Dure" Florence
The Museum of ‘Le Pietre Dure’ Florence This ‘Opificio' is one of the most famous artistic workshops of the Italian Renaissance, established in 1599 by the Medici family to make elaborate stone works inlaid with precious and semi precious stones to decorate not only their residences but also chapels such as the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes) in the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence. The technique , the original idea of which came from Byzantine inlay works, was perfected by the masters of the Opificio. The artisans who are exceptionally skilled, had the delicate task of inlaying thin veneers of semi-precious stones especially selected for their colour, brilliance and grain to create elaborate decorative scenes and pictorial effects often featuring, flowers, fruits and animals Artworks of great refinement were created in this way, from furnishings to wall hangings and ornaments. Today, artisans trained at the Opificio mainly concentrate on restoration works, and many assist great museums of the world in their restoration programmes. The museum connected to the actual ‘Opificio workshop contains many examples of the Medici collection of carved hard stone, mosaics, inlays and sculptures, as well as important pieces such as the Florentine and Northern landscapes, and the models and panels for the Cappella dei Principi. Many of the exhibits are decorated with floral, fruit and animal scenes but some have more picturesque scenes such as the famous view of Piazza della Signoria. There is also a baroque fireplace covered in malacite, a brilliant bright green stone. The collection works through history with age old exhibits dating back to Medici times, to more recent works such as vases, table tops and even a harp in Art Nouveau style. Works include the original ‘pietra dura’, the ’paesina’ a local Florentine stone used for its’ particular texture, polychrome marbles, ‘scagliola’ an imitation marble made from a type of plaster mixture used in later years, and 19th Century table tops made with an extraordinary eye for detail.