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Pietre Dure and the Art of Florentine Inlay

Annamaria Giusti


Captures the beauty and craftsmanship of the ancient decorative art of creating mosaics from semi-precious stones


From the ancient history of decorative stonework comes a very special artistic phenomenon, and this richly illustrated, large-format book tells its fascinating story. The phenomenon is pietre dure, or polychrome hardstone inlay, which resurfaced in Rome in the sixteenth century, within the context of the artistic flowering of the Italian Renaissance. Rome, where art took its inspiration from the cult of antiquity, fell in love with the evocative power of hardstones. Tabletops were covered in stones, inlaid into delicate floral panels or shining out, from ovals of opalescent alabaster.

From Rome, pietre dure spread to Florence, where the Medici family founded a prestigious workshop in 1588, dedicated to the production of hardstone works using materials such as coral, garnet, jasper and lapis lazuli. The art flourished for three centuries, thanks to the virtuoso skills of the finest craftsmen. Other workshops were founded at the Court of Rudolf II in Prague, and of Louis XIV in France, before spreading to Naples and Madrid under the Bourbon dynasty.

In this way, Florentine inlay grew to become a tirelessly imaginative artistic language, capable of imbuing works of decorative art with the most astonishing beauty and creating masterpieces which still glow just as brightly today, long after the fall of their royal patrons.

This book brilliantly captures the beauty and craftsmanship of this ancient technique, illustrating in scores of dazzling photographs outstanding examples of pietre dure, including works designed for the Cappella dei Principi, Florence, and the Schloss Favorite, Rastatt.

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Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 33.0 x 24.5 cm

Extent: 264 pp

Publication date: 10 July 2006

ISBN: 9780500512975

Contents List

I. The Eternal Fascination of Pietre Dure – presents the various kinds of mosaic using semi-precious stones and the different ways they have been used from prehistory to the present day • II. The Roman Renaissance and the Renewed Interest in Polychrome Pietre Dure – the rebirth of pietre dure in 16th-century Rome • III. Production in Florence under the Medicis – the most coherent and spectacular period in the history of European pietre dure • IV. The Success of Pietre Dure in Europe During the 18th Century – Royal Workshops throughout Europe • V. Glories of the Ancien Regime – Production under the Hapsburgs, Bourbons, Catherine II, Frederic II and the French Court • VI. From the Splendours of the Court to the Luxury of the Borghese – Florentine production in the 19th century.

About the Author

Annamaria Giusti is Chief Curator, Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro in Florence.

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