The Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Semi-precious Stones Workshop) is dedicated to the traditional art of the Florentine mosaic (or inlaid work) in semi-precious stones. That ancient art, brought to new life thanks to the Medici family, was already known by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who created mosaics using marble and semi-precious stones (quartz, chalcedony, jasper, lapis-lazuli).
For centuries Florentine craftsmen have skilfully cut the naturally coloured stones into shapes, fitting them together to create magnificent architectural decorations as well as the most precious objects.
The museum was officially founded in 1588 by Ferdinando I de' Medici. For more than three centuries most of the work has been dedicated to the decoration of the Chapel of the Princes, the Medici mausoleum, under the direction of architects and sculptors, such as Bernardo Buontalenti, Matteo Nigetti and Pietro Tacca. The workshops, once located in the Casino Mediceo and then in the Uffizi, were moved to the present site in 1796. The museum, next to the workshop, has gradually begun to work from the late 19th C., when the Opificio started to attend to artworks restoration.
In 1995 the museum was renovated and enlarged with an educational section dedicated to the history of the workshop and workmanship.
The museum displays a big collection of semi-precious stone works (the so called “Florentine mosaic”), real “stone paintings”: portraits, coats of arms, abstract decorations, landscapes, stories, architectures. An important section is dedicated to nature subjects, in particular flowers, often together with fruits and birds, very fashionable between 17th and 18th C. Among the works on display there are mural decorations, tables, vases, caskets, small sculptures, cameos, cabinets and other pieces of furniture, often decorated with ebony and gilded bronze. The section dedicated to the Laboratory of semi-precious stones shows 18th C. work benches, tools, hundreds of samples of the most precious stones used by the craftsmen.
Medici Lorraine Crest, tender stones and mother of pearl, late 16th C.
Red marble head of Cosimo I, by Bernardo Buontalenti
Semi-precious stone reliefs for the altar in the Chapel of the Princes, early 17th C.
Table cabinet, ebony and semi-precious stones, Prague workshops
Bedroom holy water stoup, semi-precious stones and gilded bronze, early 18th C.
Cosimo III’s big cameo, early 18th C.
View of the Pantheon, semi-precious stone, about 1797
Tables with birds, flowers and fruits, 19th C.
Monday to Saturday from 8.15 to 14.00
Thursday from 8.15 to 19.00
Sunday and Public Holidays
Book now Opificio delle Pietre Dure