Painted in stone

The beautiful tradition of mosaic works fashioned in semiprecious stones that originated in the Italian Renaissance is still carried on today in the heart of Florence by the Scarpelli family: in the workshop Le Pietre nell’Arte, this art finds a natural continuation under the banner of absolute and acknowledged excellence. This particular mosaic technique, with which extraordinary pictorial and decorative effects can be achieved, is called commesso fiorentino from the Latin “committere”, to bring together, to unite.
It was originally developed in the second half of the 15th century, but this art flourished under the enlightened patronage of the Medici family: first with Francis I and then Ferdinand I, who founded the glorious Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop for Hard Stone) in 1588. Indeed, most of the specialised artisans who decorated the Medici’s magnificent Cappella dei Principi in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, a masterpiece of this technique, were trained in the Florentine Workshop. Many extraordinary artworks were produced with these inlays in semiprecious stones, ranging from furniture to ornaments and even magnificent copies of paintings, and the Florentine masters became famous throughout the world for their inventiveness and skill, until the decline of the Medici and Lorraine dynasties in the late 19th century.
The ancient and laborious art of commesso is perpetuated today by master craftsman Renzo Scarpelli and his son Leonardo: both artisans command with unmatched skill every phase of this technique, from selecting the stones to cutting them, smoothing and polishing the surface, exploiting every shade and variety of colour in the natural stones to create astonishing “stone paintings”. The expressive power and pictorial delicacy of their works is awe-inspiring, as one does not expect so much beauty to emerge from a material as difficult and hard as stone… Tuscan landscapes, Florence and the Arno, children and animals playing, country scenes, seascapes, still lives, flowers, jewels, objects and miniatures, replicas of famous paintings… all appeal to us for their poetry and perfect execution.