Goldsmithing in Florence

Goldsmith worksops on the Ponte Vecchio Florence
Goldsmith worksops on the Ponte Vecchio Florence

Goldsmithing in Florence was first practiced in monasteries and abbeys during the middle age, with the production of sacred objects such as reliquaries, crosses, chalices…

The Republic of Florence introduced its own currency in 1252, the Gold Florin, gaining a significant role in the whole Europe. This led to the development of a successful goldsmithing that culminated during the Renaissance, when it was common for painters and sculptors to start their apprentices in jewelry workshops. Still to day the art of goldsmithing is very dynamic in Florence, in particular on Ponte Vecchio.

One of the first extraordinary example of the art of goldsmithing in Florence is the Treasure that was commissioned in 1366. It was assigned to a range of participants and famous goldsmiths, such as Leonardo di ser Giovanni, Michele di Monte, Tommaso Ghiberti, Matteo di Giovanni, Bernardo Cennini, Antonio del Pollaiolo e Andrea del Verrocchio, worked on the creation of this masterpiece, that required more than 100 years of work. 400 kg of silver and 1050 enabled plates. Today, this unique goldsmithing example is preserved, inside a showcase, in the Treasury Room of the Opera Duomo Museum.

Goldsmith's masterpiece The Treasure Museo del Opera del Duomo Florence
Goldsmith’s masterpiece The Treasure Museo del Opera del Duomo Florence

Later on, during the 15th and 16th century, many of the sculptors, artists and architects of the Renaissance often had their initial training in goldsmith studios. Brunelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, Botticelli and Verocchio (Leonardo da Vinci’s master) are just a handful of the many who began as goldsmiths before creating the Renaissance’s greatest buildings and most memorable sculptures and paintings. In 1565, Benvenuto Cellini, the sculptor of the “Perseus and the head of Medusa” on Piazza della Signoria, wrote his autobiography, in which he describes techniques, tools and materials used at that time, a book still used by many jewelry artisans today.

Benvenuto Cellini Perseus and Medusa Florence
Benvenuto Cellini Perseus and Medusa Florence

At the end of the 16th century Under Gran Duke Francesco 1er, the goldsmithing workshops were opened in the Uffizzi, but it is in 1593 that his successor Ferdinando 1er ordered the Ponte Vecchio to be entirely devoted to gold shops and laboratories In the 19th century a little fountain with the bust of Benvenuto Cellini by the sculptor Raffaello Romanelli was placed on the terrace in the middle of the bridge. Still today, Italy, and Tuscany is one of the top designers and producers of fine gold jewelry in the world.

Staying in Palazzo Larderel, you will be able to discover and admire the past and current talented artisan goldsmiths in Florence.

The Stibbert museum in Florence

Banquet in the 19th century Exhibition Stibbert museum Florence Italy

The Stibbert Museum in Florence has to be visited, with its unique and extraordinary collection of armors and weapons from the 15th to the 19th century. A temporary exhibition on banquets, from the Renaissance to the 20th century is currently on display. A stay in the Palazzo Larderel Via Tornabuoni in Florence is the ideal occasion to make this exceptional visit.

The Stibbert Museum in Florence has been created in the late 19th century by Frédérick Stibbert, an Anglo Italian collector of European and Japanese armors and weapons. You can also visit his apartment, as it was in the 19th century, with its furniture, its paintings, its tableware … And of course, his collection , so original , of armors and weapons: caparisoned horses, cuirasses, helmets, shields, swords… One can even admire the exceptional costume worn by Napoleon at his coronation as King of Italy in Milan in 1805: a green attire, with beautiful embroidered patterns palms, laurels and bees, ears of wheat, oak leaves … The pair of shoes worn by Napoleon during this ceremony is also presented.

Banquet in the 17th century Stibbert museum Florence Italy

Currently, the Stibbert Museum presents a temporary exhibition on “banquets”, from the Renaissance until the 20th century, « Conviti e Banchetti ».Since the Renaissance, to celebrate special occasions such as victories, weddings, or other exceptional events, the best architects and artists were called to prepare the decor of those sumptuous feasts. The Italian princely families called upon all their talents to create decorations that we can still admire in certain paintings of the Renaissance. The artists were always competing with new types of dishes and tableware, while the cooks were racing with the sculptors to prepare meals and dishes with wonderful appearance!

And, after this fascinating visit of the museum, you can go for a walk in the romantic English garden, with its temples, fountains, caves, and return to the Palazzo Larderel to relax on the terrace.

The art of hard stones in Florence and in Tuscany

Tuscany Florence Opificio delle Pietre Dure Table in hard stones

The art of hard stones (Pietre Dure), dates back to the 16th century, and was developed in Florence and Tuscany under the impetus of the Medici family. Today the fascinating but unfortunately too little known Museum of the Opificio Delle Pietre Dure presents the history and the techniques used for this “Art of Stone painting” as well as examples of these art works.

The art of hard stones is to use semi-precious stones of different colors, finely polished, cut and adjusted, to create images, as in marquetry but using minerals instead of wood. The pieces of stone are glued piece by piece on a support to form tables, decorative panels, cabinets … “Stone painting”, such was the name of this technique, able, as painting, to represent the most varied subjects: geometric drawings, landscapes, flowers, birds…

Toscane Villa le Barone A lounge with an antique cabinet in hard stones

The art of hard stones was inspired by the ancient Roman “opus sectile”, a technique where marble and other stones with geometrical and figurative designs were cut and inlaid in the the floors and walls of Roman buildings. However, it was in the 16th century that the art of art stones developed, first in Rome and then in Florence, where the Medici gave it its full dimension. The Grand Duke Ferdinand I of Medici, who in 1588 created a factory specializing, specializing in the cutting and intaglio of hard stones, and that remained active for more than three centuries which has now become the “Museum of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure “, a small but unique museum in that it traces the history of a fascinating aspect of this Florentine art. In the entrance courtyard of the museum you can still see the stones that Ferdinand I had brought from Tuscany, Sicily, but also from many other countries known then, Bohemia, Persia, India … On the ground floor, one can admire the different aspects of this art from the 16th to the 19th century, and on the first floor, the hundreds of samples of semi-precious stones, and the superb workbenches used to cut, carve, polish the different pieces that will compose the tables, paintings, cabinets.

We are happy to have in one of the lounges at Villa le Barone a hard stone cabinet from the 17th century, secret cabinet that was used to hide the silver coins! And during your stay in Tuscany, visit the Museum of Opificio Delle Pietre Dure. (www.opificiodellepietredure.it)

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