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Museum - Opificio Della Pietre Dure / Semiprecious Stones Workshop
Via degli Alfani, 78, Florence, Italy

Literal meaning of  Opificio della pietre dure: workshop of semi-precious stones

Commesso Fiorentino: piecing together of marble using different shapes and colors to create a mosaic image or a decorative design. This art grew in popularity and is definitely a product of Florence.

Cemmesso in pietre dure: semi-precious stones mosaic.  This is the art form produced here.

Mosaic pattern, either geometric or figurative, formed by inlaying small pieces of stone, tile, glass, or enamel into a cement, mortar, or plaster matrix.

Precious stones:  name that is usually used in reference to four types of gems: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds

Semiprecious stones:  varieties of gemstones that are not categorized as "precious." Any gemstone suitable for being used in personal adornment would be included.

Semiprecious stones include gemstones fashioned from agate, amber, amethyst, aquamarine, aventurine, chalcedony, chrysocolla, chrysoprase, citrine, garnet, hematite, jade, jasper, jet, kunzite, lapis lazuli, malachite, moonstone, obsidian, onyx, peridot, rhodonite, sunstone, tiger's eye, tanzanite, topaz, turquoise, tourmaline and many other materials.

Intarsia: an elaborate form of marquetry using inlays in wood, especially as practiced in 15th-century Italy

Marquetry: inlaid work made from small pieces of variously colored wood or other materials, used chiefly for the decoration of furniture.

Stone intarsia:  an elaborate form of marquetry using inlays in semi-precious stones, especially as practiced in 15th-century Italy.

Scagliola: consists of pouring variously coloured liquid gesso into a hollowed cavity in a previously prepared gesso layer. The final polishing of the composition with the aid of animal glue confers an aspect similar to stone inlay work

Stone scagliola:  Scagliola, which represents a less costly imitative technique than stone intarsia work is, however, far more complex.  It consists of pouring variously coloured liquid gesso into a hollowed cavity in a previously prepared gesso layer.  The final polishing of the composition with the aid of animal glue confers an aspect similar to stone inlay work.

February 2020 photos


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Partrial reprint
Opificio della pietre dure
The Museums of Florence
(online March 2020)

"Art and nature" could be the motto of this extraordinary museum dedicated to semi-precious stone inlays, where artistic talent competes only with the splendour of the materials employed.

It was the passion of the Medici for this precious form of art that led Grand Duke Ferdinando I de'Medici to establish in 1588 a court laboratory specialised in semi-precious mosaics and inlays. This grand ducal institution, which remained active for down three centuries, was the core of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, established at the end of the 19th century, which still has its seat in the original location chosen in 1798 for the laboratories formerly housed in the Uffizi.

 "Stone painting" was the term chosen by its initiators to define Florentine mosaics, because this technique enables to represent a varying range of subjects, fully represented in the museum, ranging from portraits to abstract subjects, from landscapes to stories with figures, from architectural views to natural themes.

Stone flowers is the section dedicated to the very trendy theme of flowers, that flourished between the 17th and 18th centuries. Flowers were often matched with fruit and birds and were used in particular to decorate table tops or crown chests.

Cammeos, small inlays, small picture frames, chests and other furniture pieces, both religious and laic, where semi-precious stones are often sumptouosly matched with, ebony and gilded bronze typically indicate the Baroque taste of the last members of the Medici family.






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Partial reprint
The Opificio delle Pietre Dure Museum
Visit Florence
(online March 2020)
The art of marble-inlay existed long before 1588 when Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici established a court-funded laboratory specialising in semi-precious mosaics and inlays.

The OPD was fundamental during the Flood of 1966 and is considered one of the premier restoration workshops in the world - not just for stone inlay but an innovative and cutting edge point of reference for a plethora of material.

Their expertise stretches from tapestry and carpets, archaeological, bronze pieces, weapons, as well as, armory, and painted furniture.  It also extends to paper and parchment materials, stone, gold, wooden sculptures, terracotta, textiles and, of course, the conservation of mosaics and semiprecious stones.

 The museum was renovated in 1995.






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Partial reprint

The Opificio delle Pietre Dure Museum in Florence
Italian Ways (online March 2020)

Marble, porphyry, granite, alberese stone, limestone, flowered, cotognino and Egyptian alabaster, lapis lazuli, rock crystal, jasper, agate… each precious stone has an exotic name and a special color, hue, and consistency.

Their inorganic material comes to life in splendid works of art, thanks to talented hands like those that reached the height of creativity at the Florentine school of gemstone engraving.

Their extraordinary treasure of cups, vases, reliefs, cameos, furniture and paintings has been gathered at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure Museum in Florence: wonderful pieces created in the Medicis’ artistic gemstone factory, officially founded by Ferdinando I de’ Medici in 1588. The factory was known for its excellent work, which was appreciated at royal courts across Europe.

Now the Museum, founded in 1882, showcases amazing unfinished specimens that survived dispersion in the 19th century, and bears testimony to the fine techniques once used to engrave gems in Florence, such as the so-called “Florentine mosaic”.

Unlike many other museums that have grown around a collector’s or curator’s project, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure Museum was built to reflect the life and events in the history of these prestigious and prolific workshops over the centuries.






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Partial reprint
Opificio delle Pietre Dure
Uffizi gallery (online March 2020)

Among Florence museums, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Semi-precious Stones Workshop) is dedicated to the fascinating traditional art of the Florentine Mosaic (or inlaid work) in semi-precious stones. The Medici family brought to new life this ancient art, that was already known by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Florentine craftsmen have skilfully worked for centuries with naturally coloured stones (quartz, chalcedony, jasper, lapis-lazuli), fitting them together to realize impressive architectural decorations and precious artifacts.

The workshop was officially founded in 1588 by Ferdinando I de' Medici, with the purpose of decorating the Chapel of Princes, the Medici Mausoleum ... At first it was located in the Casino Mediceo, then at the Uffizi and in 1796 in the present site. The museum in Florence, created next to the workshop, was opened in the late 19th century when the Opificio started to attend to artworks restoration, and it has been fully renovated and enlarged in 1995 with an educational section.

The Opificio houses a big collection of semi-precious stone works (the so called “Florentine Mosaic”), fascinating real "stone paintings" as portraits, abstract decorations and landscapes, together with an important section of natural and floral subjects (very fashionable between the 17th and 18th century) and mural decorations, small sculptures, cameos, cabinets and other pieces of furniture, decorated with ebony and gilded bronze. The section dedicated to the Laboratory displays work tools and samples of the most precious stones used by the craftsmen.


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Photos and their arrangement 2020 Chuck LaChiusa
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