Unusual Italian crafts: the stone mosaics of Florence

At first glance, you can easily dismiss this picture of the Ponte Vecchio, showing the bridge lit by sunlight and reflected in the waters of the Arno river. After all, this kind of pictures are everywhere in Florence. But if you take a closer look and venture inside the craft laboratory where this picture is displayed, you’ll soon realise that this is a very unique and special place indeed.

Scarpelli Mosaici in the heart of Florence continues the tradition of mosaics in hard stone (mosaici in pietre dure) which dates from the Renaissance. All the detailed and realistic pictures that you see in this amazing lab are entirely composed by skillfully placing together coloured and patterned stones, so artfully combined that the joins disappear in the composition. Even more remarkable is the fact that the natural swirls, streaks and shadings of colour in the stone have been so carefully chosen that they create the pictures, as if from the brush of a master painter.

 Renzo Scarpelli started this lab more than 40 years ago, after serving an apprenticeship that began when he was 13 years old. He was following a tradition and an art, unique to Florence, that began at the time of the Medici family. The dedication of Renzo to his art is impressive and the skill acquired through several decades is second to none. The care, precision and artistic judgement involved is astonishing and so are the results.

Pietre Dure

Le Pietre nell’Arte, the Scarpelli’s workshop and gallery, is unique in that you can simply admire or buy the works displayed in the gallery, or you can watch the whole process in a working laboratorio¬†in the rear of the shop. So next time you are in Florence, don’t miss a visit to Scarpelli’s gallery and lab and then taking a tour of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure museum nearby. It’s in Via Ricasoli 59/r and a really fascinating place and the work created here is to be seen to be believed!

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