Archive for category Glass Mosaic Art
Well it just might have been a (back handed) compliment! Though many of us would use the phrase hard as a rock to describe Aunt Minnie’s Christmas Fruitcake, that’s not so in Florence Italy where they also use it to describe a special type of mosaic production that has also been a tradition (and most definitely much more appreciated than the annual fruitcake!)
Hard stone mosaics have been part of a Florentine tradition for centuries, in fact it is the popular opinion that the Florentines have fully developed this art form. Even today, you can hear it being regarded as ‘painting in stone’. Legend has it that the famous Ghirlandaio said it was a ’Pittura per l’eternità’ — which means a painting which will last an eternity.
Some will put the tradition starting in 1588 when the Grand Duke Ferdinando I founded the Galleria de’ Lavori in Pietre Dure, a hardstone workshop, in Florence as the official beginning of a tradition. Ferdinando was in fact a strong patron of this form of art, helping it to grow by hiring local craftsmen and training them to restore ancient carved-stone objects as well as create original works in pietre dure.
Commonly associated with these highly unquie piece of art is the term “commesso” derived from the Latin word “committere”: to unite, to connect. The idea behind the design is to in effect create a stone jigsaw puzzle. The craftsman will create a hand drawn design, select the stones that match the color scheme and then hand cut each piece with a rather simple contraption of a bow made from wood and a cutting iron thread. Each piece is then polished and “fitted into the puzzle.”
The above image represents the original Pliny Doves found on the upper floor of the museum of the Capitol at Rome considered by many to be one of the finest and most perfectly preserved specimens of ancient mosaic. It represents four doves drinking, with a beautiful border surrounding the composition.
Miniatures have been treasured throughout history for the detail, their size and their artistic expression, so it is no surprise when these micromosaics made from spun enamel glass, that they too would be treasured and collected. Though this art was exemplified in the Byzantine times, then in Rome, there are very few creative studios that still produce them using the age old techniques that created incredible collections like those seen in London and the Hermitage in Russia. In fact, Traversari is one of the few that still study and utilize the skills developed 100′s of years before to create original and beautiful works of art.
The miniature originally grew as a way to convey the story and meaning of the written word. In fact, the art of miniature painting is directly connected to illustrations in books. As time passed, the images were cut out of books or documents so that they could be carried more easily. From this came the idea of the “portable” portrait miniature and artists were commissioned to paint small portraits – paintings that were used as we use wallet sized photographs today.
These micro mosaics made from Murano glass or enamel basically have the same idea – to make an image or memory portable – are made from sticks of glass and/or enamel or what they call wands – which look a bit like a squashed straw (about 30cm in length and about 1mm in thickness). These sticks are then cut into little pieces (about 3mm high) and placed together to create an image such as a floral, a landscape of Roman ruins or a copy of other well known works of art. It is an art of patience, carefully cutting the pieces and then compiling them to create an image.
The micro mosaic was born in Rome in the second half of the 1700′s when the decoration in the Basilica in Rome was nearing completion, resulting in putting many mosaic craftsmen out of work. These craftsmen returned to their own workshops and began to produce mini mosaics. These works of art in fact quickly became popular with the tourists on the Grand Tour since there were easily packaged and carried home. Typical scenes were landscapes of Roman views and ruins, sometimes micromosaics were used as small panels in furniture, inlays on snuff boxes, framed images or even as jewelry.
A distinctive feature of micromosaics is that the tesserae, which is the Italian name for the tiny elements of glass or enamel that make up the image, are usually oblong rather than square. Many images will also show tesserae which have more than one color in them, these pieces of Murano glass are actually a work of art in themselves. Amazing but beautiful, some of the best work can achieve 3,000 to 5,000 tesserae per square inch.