Pietra dura

Pietra dura, called parchin kari or parchinkari in the Indian Subcontinent, is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished colored stones to create images. It is considered a decorative art. The stonework, after the work is assembled loosely, is glued stone-by-stone to a substrate after having previously been “sliced and cut in different shape sections; and then assembled together so precisely that the contact between each section was practically invisible”. Stability was achieved by grooving the undersides of the stones so that they interlocked, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with everything held tautly in place by an encircling ‘frame’. Many different colored stones, particularly marbles, were used, along with semiprecious, and even precious stones. It first appeared in Rome in the 16th century, reaching its full maturity in Florence. Pietra dura items are generally crafted on green, white or black marble base stones. Typically, the resulting panel is completely flat, but some examples where the image is in low relief were made, taking the work more into the area of hardstone carving.

Technique
The intaglio or inlay of hard stones consists of embedding on a compact surface thin stone or marble tiles of color, cut and fitted forming images or diverse compositions, adhered with glue or putty, and subsequently polished, which gives the final finish the shine of a mirror. 3The technique to work hard stones is similar to that used in goldsmithing to work precious stones. Due to the hardness of the material it takes a great skill on the part of the craftsman. Before its preparation, a colored template is prepared that serves as a model for its preparation. Then the craftsman must choose the necessary stones according to the required color, taking into account also the quality of the stone. By colors, agate, jade, white coral, chalcedony and opal are generally used for white; for red, carnelian and red coral; for blue, turquoise, lapis lazuli and zafirina; for green, malachite, heliotrope and tourmaline; and, for black, obsidian and fossilized firewood.

Terminology
Rigid Pietre is an Italian plural meaning hard rocks or hard stones; the pietra dura (in the singular) is also met in Italian. In Italian, but not in English, the term includes all gemstone engravings and hard stone carving, which is the artistic sculpture of three-dimensional objects made of semi-precious stone, normally in one piece, for example in jade Chinese.

The traditional convention in English was to use the singular “pietra dura” to designate only multicolored inlays. However, in recent years, there has been a tendency to use the term “hard pieced” to refer to the same thing, but not to all the techniques it covers, in Italian.

The title of a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure” uses the Italian expression, while the Victoria and Albert Museum in London uses both versions on its website Web, but defines the pietra dura as a method of incrustation of colored marbles or semi-precious stones in a stone base, often in geometric or floral motifs… and illustrates this with works by Giovanni Montelatici (1864- 1930) an Italian Florentine artist whose brilliant work has been distributed around the world by tourists and collectors.

The pietra dura is distinguished from the mosaic by the fact that the stones that compose it are generally much larger and cut so that they are in their place in the image, and not all of size and shape roughly equal to those of the mosaic. In the pietra dura, the stones are not cemented with grout and the works in pietra dura are often portable.

This technique should not be confused with micromosaic, a mosaic-like form that uses very small tesserae of the same size to create images rather than decorative patterns, for Byzantine icons and later for signs intended to be placed in furniture or the like.

For fixed inlay work on walls, ceilings and sidewalks that do not meet the definition of mosaic, the terms intarsia or cosmati are appropriate. Similarly, for works that use larger pieces of stone (or tiles), opus sectil e may be used.

Related arts and terms
Pietre dure is an Italian plural meaning “hard rocks” or hardstones; the singular pietra dura is also encountered in Italian. In Italian, but not in English, the term embraces all gem engraving and hardstone carving, which is the artistic carving of three-dimensional objects in semi-precious stone, normally from a single piece, for example in Chinese jade. The traditional convention in English has been to use the singular pietra dura just to denote multi-colored inlay work. However, in recent years there has been a trend to use pietre dure as a term for the same thing, but not for all of the techniques it covers, in Italian. But the title of a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe used the full Italian sense of the term, probably because they thought that it had greater brand recognition. The material on the website speaks of objects such as a vase in lapis lazuli as being examples of “hardstone carving (pietre dure)” The Victoria & Albert Museum in London uses both versions on its website, but uses pietra dura (“A method of inlaying coloured marbles or semi-precious stones into a stone base, often in geometric or flower patterns….”) in its “Glossary”, which was evidently not consulted by the author of another page, where the reader is told: “Pietre dure (from the Italian ‘hard stone’) is made from finely sliced coloured stones, precisely matched, to create a pictorial scene or regular design”. The English term “Florentine mosaic” is sometimes also encountered, probably developed by the tourist industry. Giovanni Montelatici (1864-1930) was an Italian Florentine artist whose brilliant work has been distributed across the world by tourists and collectors.

It is distinct from mosaic in that the component stones are mostly much larger and cut to a shape suiting their place in the image, not all of roughly equal size and shape as in mosaic. In pietra dura, the stones are not cemented together with grout, and works in pietra dura are often portable. Nor should it be confused with micromosaics, a form of mosaic using very small tesserae of the same size to create images rather than decorative patterns, for Byzantine icons, and later for panels for setting into furniture and the like.

For fixed inlay work on walls, ceilings, and pavements that do not meet the definition for mosaic, the terms intarsia or cosmati work/cosmatesque are better used. Similarly, for works that use larger pieces of stone (or tile), opus sectile may be used. Pietre dure is essentially stone marquetry. As a high expression of lapidary art, it is closely related to the jewelers art. It can also be seen as a branch of sculpture as three-dimensionality can be achieved, as with a bas relief.

History
Pietra dura developed from the ancient Roman opus sectile, which at least in terms of surviving examples, was architectural, used on floors and walls, with both geometric and figurative designs. In the Middle Ages cosmatesque floors and small columns etc. on tombs and altars continued to use inlays of different colours in geometric patterns. Byzantine art continued with inlaid floors, but also produced some small religious figures in hardstone inlays, for example in the Pala d’Oro in San Marco, Venice (though this mainly uses enamel). In the Italian Renaissance this technique again was used for images. The Florentines, who most fully developed the form, however, regarded it as ‘painting in stone’.

As it developed in Florence, the technique was initially called opere di commessi (approximately, “Fitted together works”). Medici Grand Duke Ferdinando I of Tuscany founded the Galleria di’Lavori in 1588, now the Opificio delle pietre dure, for the purpose of developing this and other decorative forms.

They were also made with hard stones busts and statuettes, such as the bust of Vittoria della Rovere of the Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, made with black marble from Flanders, carnations of chalcedony and eyes of agate. In the same way, hard or flat mosaics were elaborated in hard stones to decorate table tops, cabinets, altar fronts and other furniture or objects. This work was called in Italian commesso di pietre dure and is also known as «Florentine mosaic». 8With this procedure several scenes of almost pictorial appearance were elaborated, such as landscapes, still lifes, portraits, religious scenes or geometric drawings. These works were very popular in the 18th century, when they were common in pieces of cabinetmaking. The Royal Manufacture of the Gobelins in Paris hired several Florentine artisans to carry out this type of work.

This technique soon spread to other centers in Italy and the rest of Europe, with a remarkable workshop in Prague founded by Italian artisan Ottavio Miseroni. The first realizations in Italy and Prague were of Mannerist style, preferably large vases and bowls with carved hard stones and frames of gold and enamel. Some examples are preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Schatzkammer in the Munich Residence.

A multitude of varied objects were created. Table tops were particularly prized, and these tend to be the largest specimens. Smaller items in the form of medallions, cameos, wall plaques, panels inserted into doors or onto cabinets, bowls, jardinieres, garden ornaments, fountains, benches, etc. are all found. A popular form was to copy an existing painting, often of a human figure, as illustrated by the image of Pope Clement VIII, above. Examples are found in many museums. The medium was transported to other European centers of court art and remained popular into the 19th century. In particular, Naples became a noted center of the craft. By the 20th century, the medium was in decline, in part by the assault of modernism, and the craft had been reduced to mainly restoration work. In recent decades, however, the form has been revived, and receives state-funded sponsorship. Modern examples range from tourist-oriented kitsch including syrupy reproductions of 19th century style religious subjects (especially in Florence and Naples), to works copying or based on older designs used for luxurious decorative contexts, to works in a genuinely contemporary artistic idiom.

In the 18th century, two notable centers of production were created, both on the initiative of Charles III of Spain: in 1737, when he was king of Naples as Charles VII, he founded the Royal Hard Stone Laboratory of Naples, with artisans from the Florentine Opificio. Later, in 1759, when he was already king of Spain, he founded the Real Mosaic and Hard Stones Laboratory of Buen Retiro in Madrid, also with Italian craftsmen. While the Florentine school stood out for its greater use of precious materials, the Neapolitan school used less expensive materials, with preference for marble. In El Buen Retiro the materials were not as sumptuous as in Florence, but the techniques of elaboration were more similar to those of this school than to the Neapolitan.

Among the most important hard stone artisans, it is worth mentioning the Miseroni family, of Milanese origin. Brothers Girolamo and Gasparo Miseroni worked for Cosme I de Médici in Florence. Girolamo had three children: Giulio (1559-1593) worked in Spain, where he collaborated in the construction of the El Escorial tabernacle; Ottavio († 1624) settled in Prague, where he was Lapidary of the Court for Rodolfo II; and Giovanni Ambrogio, who also worked in Prague. Dionysio († 1661), son of Ottavio, continued the work of his father in the imperial court, and he owes some of the best achievements, preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. His son Ferdinand Eusebius († 1684) was like his father Lapidary of the Court and custodian of his treasures.

Pietre lasts
In the Italian Renaissance, this technique was again used for images. The Florentines, who developed the most form, however considered it as “stone painting”. As its development in Florence, the technique was originally called opere di commessi. The Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I of Medici founded in 1588 the Galleria di’Lavori, today Opificio delle pietre dur, in order to develop this decorative form and others.

A multitude of varied objects have been created. Table trays were particularly popular and are usually the largest specimens. Smaller objects can be found in the form of medallions, cameos, wall plaques, panels inserted in doors or on cupboards, bowls, planters, garden ornaments, fountains, benches, etc.

A popular form was to copy an existing painting, often a human figure, as illustrated by the image of Pope Clement VIII below. Examples can be found in many museums.

Parchin kari
At the beginning of the 17th century, small objects produced by the Opificio were widely distributed throughout Europe and the far east to the court of the Mughals in India, where the form was imitated and reinterpreted in a native style; its most sumptuous expression is in the Taj Mahal.

In India, pietra dura was known as parchin kari, literally “encrustation”.

By the early part of the 17th century, smaller objects produced by the Opificio were widely diffused throughout Europe, and as far East to the court of the Mughals in India, where the form was imitated and reinterpreted in a native style; its most sumptuous expression is found in the Taj Mahal. In Mughal India, pietra dura was known as Parchin kari, literally ‘inlay’ or ‘driven-in’ work.

Due to the Taj Mahal being one of the major tourist attractions, there is a flourishing industry of Pietra Dura artifacts in Agra ranging from tabletops, medallions, elephants and other animal forms, jewellery boxes and other decorative items. This art form is fully alive and thriving in Agra, India though the patterns in the designs are more Persian than Roman or Medician.

As the Taj Mahal is one of the major tourist attractions, there is a thriving industry of artifacts from Pietra Dura to Agra in Uttar Pradesh, ranging from table tops, medallions, elephants and other animal shapes, jewelry boxes and more. decorative objects.

This form of art is fully alive and prosperous in Agra, although the motifs in the drawings are more Persian than Roman or Florentine.

Source from Wikipedia