opificio delle pietre dure, florence

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  The Opificio delle Pietre Dure  

Address: Via degli Alfani, 78

Opificio delle Pietre Dure: a table
In the Museum attached to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure or hard stones workshop is concentrated all that remains of the former grand ducal workshops created by Cosimo I de' Medici, who turned his family's collecting passion to political ends even in this field of activity.

During the sixteenth century, Cosimo and his son Francesco invited leading stone engravers from all over Europe to work in Florence; these included the Milanese Saracchi and the German Bilivert. This raised the technical and qualitative level in the workshops, which were organized in 1588 by Ferdinando I de' Medici to include many artists and artisans in the court orbit such as goldsmiths, jewellers, engravers, lathe-workers and others, who now had a precise organization and an official seat in the Uffizi.

The work of stone engravers was particularly in demand in the seventeenth century during the creation of the Medici Chapels, but the House of Lorraine and later, Maria Luisa of Bourbon and Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi took advantage of their skills which had gained for Florence an international reputation. Notwithstanding the changes in style, the technical level of execution remained very high. With the decline in court commissions and the falling-off of the work on the Medici Chapels during the nineteenth century, the Opificio's activity was directed towards the field of restoring marble inlays and mosaics. Its work in restoring antique sculpture is also rightly famous.

The present day location is that to which the grand ducal workshops were transferred under Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine. These are in a group of old buildings which formed part of the former Hospital of St. Matthew and the adjacent convent of St. Nicholas. It was here that the laboratories, stores for old and precious materials and the little museum housing drawings, studies, incomplete hard stone inlays and those for the internal use by the Opificio were gathered. Among the more important pieces are Florentine and Northern landscapes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, models and stone panels for the Cappella dei Principi, paintings on "pietra paesina" (where court painters created remarkable effects in paint), water stoups and precious boxes. From the eighteenth century date Zocchi's beautiful paintings designed to be rendered in stone, examples of scagliola decorations and, from the nineteenth century, tablets creating bizarre visual effects which document the vanishing of a technique still striking to visitors.

Of great interest are the work tables and instruments and a rare and widely representative range of lithological samples.

Opificio delle Pietre Dure Reservation

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