The Renaissance art of the "Florentine mosaic" was one of the peaks in the history of decorative arts in Europe. In fact, after the end of the Medici dynasty, even the Habsburg Lorraine, the new rulers of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, continued to cultivate this glorious art as a precious heritage, decorating their palaces with new and fabulous creations in semi-precious stones.
This is the second event in the OVS Arts of Italy project. After the success of the first edition launched last year, OVS is pursuing its dialogue between art and fashion to promote and give value to the Italian artistic heritage and contribute to reaching out in order to bring the immense historical and artistic wealth of Italy to a wider audience.
A limited edition capsule collection inspired by recognised masterpieces of Italian art, but chosen from among lesser known works, influenced by the iconographic motifs of several works from the 17th and 18th centuries, belonging to the collections of the Galleria Palatina in Palazzo Pitti and the Silver Museum in Florence and the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan.
14 May 2017
WALKING FOR NORCIA
Congratulations to all those who took part and thank you for joining us on this wonderful day of celebration and solidarity.
OVS Arts of Italy is not only a project which creatively combines the languages of art and fashion. Its main aim is to bring the Italian artistic heritage closer to the OVS community through an original story. That's why OVS Art News items have been created: curiosities, anecdotes and ideas for a more in-depth acquaintance with Italian art to enable you to rediscover, enjoy and appreciate the extraordinary beauty under the eyes of us all.
Table top in semi-precious stones
Table top in semi-precious stones with floral design and doves
In the vast collection of subjects represented in stone mosaics, the naturalist theme of flowers and feathers is particularly recurrent, almost to the extent that it is the “distinguishing logo” of the Florentine mosaics. Curiosity
about the natural world was very much felt within Medici circles and together with a passion for “beautiful stones”, it led to the creation of a leitmotiv that was applied to different types of decorations created in the workshops of Florence.
Inlay work table top
With the invention of the art of the Florentine mosaic came the unsurpassed mosaics of the Galleria Granducale able to create pictures in stone thanks to the precision cutting and assembly of the stone tiles and the sheer sensitivity to the colours of the stones, able to produce works that look like paintings, but which are not paintings at all.
Gem with carved decoration
The Medicis also publicly showed the importance of the art of engraving on stone, commissioning the workshop of Donatello to make enlarged copies of the gems they found most important and placing them in the medallions
above the colonnade in the courtyard of the Via Larga palace. Of the twelve medallions, seven more or less faithfully reproduce some famous gems of the Renaissance.
Gem on lapis lazuli
Even as far back as the 15th century, the art of stone carving was well represented in the Medici collection of cameos, gems and carved vases. But it was Ferdinand I, founder in 1588 of the Galleria de' Lavori in Pietre Dure, which was behind the “revolution” in taste and technique that inspired the creation of court items through the development of engraved gems and Florentine mosaics.
With the development of collecting among the nobility and the creation of “Wunderkammer” or “cabinets of curiosities”, where elements inspired by nature and artificial items were set side by side in an imaginative mix, nautilus shells in mother-of- pearl, such as the one from the Silver Museum of Florence, came to enrich the most famous collections of the western courts.
Remains of equestrian armour
In Lombard culture - especially in Milan - not only major arts were considered worthy of merit, but also the products of the artisan workshops, and first and foremost, the armourers – of which this piece is an example – who together with other artisans working with metal, including sword makers, harness makers, blacksmiths, and knifesmiths, were the glory of the city for centuries.
The Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan houses a vast collection of antique weaponry: genuine pieces of goldsmithing that show the extremely high quality achieved in metal working during the 16th and 17th centuries. Increasingly new techniques and decorations that were destined to construct the image of the warrior or prince and therefore, the appearance of strength and power.
Inlay work table top
The Florentine mosaic technique, the jewel in the crown of Medici production, is in fact of very ancient in origin: the
invention of this fascinating type of mosaic has its roots back in ancient Rome, where coloured marbles arriving from the various parts of the Empire were cleverly worked according to the technique of opus sectile to compose polychrome inlays with which to decorate the walls and floors of Patrician homes.
The Weapons Room in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum was originally located on the first floor, where it was set out in a very theatrical manner by the stage designer at the Teatro alla Scala, Filippo Peroni. After the bombardments of 1943, the room was destroyed and then moved to the ground floor, where it is still possible to admire it in the innovative setting created by contemporary artist, Arnaldo Pomodoro.
Inlay work table top
The value of the creations in semi-precious stones derives from the extraordinary collection of “raw materials” owned by the Medici, who extended their search for stones to all corners of the earth: porphyry, rare marbles, agates and lapis lazuli arrived not just from Rome but also from Sicily, Corsica, Bohemia, Germany and even Persia, and finally further east, from India, which was the source of transparent chalcedony and blood agate from Goa.
Gemstone on lapis lazuli
The collecting of gemstones that developed in the early Renaissance period represents one of the most fascinating aspects of the process of rediscovering the past. Their historical and artistic values were reference models precisely because, as Vasari wrote: “Semi-precious stones are materials that can be cut into any kind of work, and through them antiquity and memories are preserved, unlike with other materials..."
Gemstone with engraved decoration
The Medici collection of gemstones was started off by Cosimo the Elder and his son Piero “the Gouty”. The latter, in particular, assigned a very important role to engraved stones in his famous study in the Palazzo in Via Larga – a real hall of wonders where, as well as gemstones, coins, medals, sculptures, jewels, vases in semi-precious stones and valuable illuminated manuscripts were kept.
The helmet is attributed to Pompeo della Cesa, one of the most famous and skilled armourers in sixteenth-century Milan. He worked for many Italian and European courts of the period, including those of the Farnese and the Savoy families by whom he was considered a real “designer of armour” because of his unusual workmanship, often inspired by the embossing and shimmering reflections of fabrics of the time.
Inlay work table top
The most beautiful works created in the workshops of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop of semi-precious stones), once completed, left the workshops to go to the illustrious Italian and European palaces for which they were designed. Today, many of these works are also kept in prestigious museums throughout the world, such as the Louvre, the Victoria and Albert museum in London, the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg where there are some superb examples of Florentine mosaics to be discovered.