Opificio delle pietre dure

Florence, Italy

Opificio delle pietre dure

The Opificio delle pietre dure, literally meaning Workshop of semi-precious stones, is a public institute of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage based in Florence. It is a global leader in the field of art restoration and provides teaching as one of two Italian state conservation schools (the other being the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro). The institute maintains also a specialist library and archive of conservation and a museum displaying historic examples of pietre dure inlaid semi-precious stones artefacts. A scientific laboratory conducts research and diagnostics and provides a preventive conservation service.

Being one of the famous artistic workshops of the Italian Renaissance, the Opificio was established in 1588 at the behest of Ferdinando I de' Medici to provide the elaborate, inlaid precious and semi-precious stoneworks. One of the masterpieces of the crafts is the overall decoration of the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of Princes) in the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze. The technique, which originated from Byzantine inlay work, was perfected by the Opificio masters and the artworks they produced became known as opera di commessi medicei (commesso is the old name of the technique, similar to ancient mosaics) and later as commesso in pietre dure (semi-precious stones mosaic).

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