From the September 2022 difficulty of Apollo. Preview and subscribe right here.
In late Sixteenth-century Florence, the traditional artwork of pietra dura was delivered to new heights of sophistication. Alessandra Griffo of the Uffizi tells Apollo how a exceptional maritime scene would have dazzled guests to the Medici courtroom
The origin of the pietra dura approach is historic, tracing again to the Roman technique for inlaying stones. In classical occasions, they largely used tender stones, however in Sixteenth-century Florence, the approach grew to become extra elaborate and exact. From the second half of the Sixteenth century, makers started to favor exhausting stones, which had been extra treasured and lavish.
Cosimo I de’ Medici, the primary Grand Duke of Tuscany, was the primary Florentine ruler to change into concerned with works comprised of exhausting stones. To start with, these works had been in three dimension, however beneath Cosimo’s two sons and heirs, pietra dura was more and more used to create new and elaborate artworks – such because the tabletop beneath dialogue right here, or cupboards – with flat pietra dura panels.
It’s tough to say whether or not Rome or Florence was the primary to make use of pietra dura on this manner. However it’s sure that whereas in Rome these works took on a extra symbolic perform – depicting coats of arms, for example, in ways in which had been above all designed to rejoice the intrinsic great thing about the stones – in Florence an elaborate, and profoundly naturalistic, repertoire was developed. Pietra dura got here for use extra as a type of portray – the gaps between the person stones grew to become very skinny, virtually invisible, giving the impression that the stone itself was creating the picture. This tabletop is without doubt one of the earliest giant panels depicting a figurative panorama.
This naturalism grew to become extra pronounced when Ferdinand I got here to energy. Francis I, the second Grand Duke of Tuscany, was nonetheless deeply concerned in Mannerism – and within the alchemical qualities of stones. However by the tip of the Sixteenth century we see naturalism taking form – the start of panorama portray correct. Ferdinand I grew to become much less within the properties of the stones themselves – and extra within the message that they might be used to ship.
The tabletop was commissioned by Ferdinand; work started in 1601 and it was completed in 1604 when the legs had been accomplished. The chances are high that, when it was accomplished, it was positioned within the Tribuna – an important room within the Uffizi – by Ferdinand. We don’t know for certain whether or not it was positioned within the Tribuna to start with. However we do have information displaying that it was there in 1636, and on the finish of the seventeenth century, and once more within the 18th. We will’t say for certain whether or not Zoffany would have encountered it, when he painted his well-known depiction of the Tribuna (now within the Royal Assortment); it doesn’t seem in that portray, however then the portray doesn’t present the entire room. It was actually there in 1769, near the time that Zoffany was portray. Barring a brief spell within the Museo degli Argenti, it has remained within the Uffizi because it was constructed.
Ferdinand would have needed to point out off what he had achieved with the port of Livorno to guests to the Medici courtroom. Work on Livorno started beneath Francis I – but it surely was actually Ferdinand’s achievement, enlarging this port on the Tuscan coast – the Meloria lighthouse you see right here,
on the centre of the composition, was in-built 1598. There’s a galley, flying the banners of the Order of Saint Stephen – a non secular order based by Cosimo I that was additionally designed to guard Tuscan business pursuits on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The galley is escorting seven captured Turkish ships, symbolic of the Order’s protecting function. Curiously – and that is one thing that isn’t often underlined in descriptions of this object – within the higher left nook there’s a small depiction of Pisa, full with the Leaning Tower. Pisa and Livorno had been each essential within the political worldview of the Medici.
The panel was created by the artisan Cristofano Gaffurri – the son of Giorgio Gaffurri, considered one of plenty of stonecutters who within the 1570s had been introduced with their households from northern Italy to Florence, the place Francis I hosted them within the stunning On line casino Mediceo. Right here they labored on treasured objects of all types – to start with, largely jewelry and small sculptures, for personal pleasure. It was the forerunner to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, established by Ferdinand I in 1588 – the primary state manufactory of its sort in Italy and in Europe, which in flip grew to become the mannequin for the Gobelins in France within the following century. These artisans labored for the state, creating diplomatic presents which the Grand Duke would ship all throughout the recognized world. We all know little about Cristofano, besides that he was working from the 1570s till the 1620s, and that he was very gifted in translating footage into works of pietra dura.
The connection between the painter and the artisan who translated the design into stones was very strict. The painter was usually appointed sceglitore di pietre – ‘the one who chooses the stones’. Once you minimize right into a stone, you discover that the veins create a selected inside design, and the attention of the artist was essential in selecting the right a part of the stone to make use of. The tabletop right here adopted a design by Jacopo Ligozzi, a painter who grew to become one of many main lights of the Medici courtroom beneath Francis I after travelling from his native Verona, specialising in naturalistic topic comparable to animals and flowers usually used as fashions for well-known pietra dura works. It’s seemingly that Ligozzi didn’t merely present the painted design for the tabletop, however directed Gaffurri within the collection of the stones. At this level, the artisan would work to get the most effective out of his supplies utilizing a really exact approach. Within the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, you’ll be able to nonetheless see the picket bench and vices they used – certainly, they’re nonetheless used for restorations and for creating works of pietra dura utilizing the traditional technique – to safe the slices of stone, often between 2–4mm thick, earlier than they had been minimize into shapes that might be put collectively like a really exact jigsaw puzzle.
On this tabletop, what’s most instantly placing is the overwhelming presence of lapis lazuli – a stone of nice significance to Catholics and to the Church, since pigments created from it had been usually used to depict the gown of the Virgin Mary. That is lapis of essentially the most treasured sort –
Persian lapis lazuli, shot by way of with gold, which you’ll be able to see within the waves. The mountains are rendered in jasper, whereas agate seems within the decoratively ornate border. These stones had been to not be present in Florence – the Medici organised commerce routes for bringing them to Florence from the world over, so far as Goa in India and Persia, not dissimilar to the well-known routes for silk and spices. So a desk like this could have been extraordinarily costly – each due to the supplies, and due to the sheer quantity of labor put into its creation. Simply consider the truth that Cristofano Gaffurri spent the most effective a part of three years engaged on this, chopping and manipulating the stones! ο
As instructed to Samuel Reilly.
Alessandra Griffo is a curator on the Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, the place Cristofano Gaffurri’s View of the Port of Livorno is on view within the newly renovated Terrazzo delle Carte Geografiche.
From the September 2022 difficulty of Apollo. Preview and subscribe right here.