BeanScene Magazine


Painting with stones

From the December 2015 issue.
Painting with stones

Inside a 'bottega artigiana' (artisan workshop) in the heart of Florence, Scarpelli Mosaici continues a tradition that started here during the Renaissance.

By Danielle Gullaci

The art of producing mosaics out of hard stones is one that began hundreds of years ago. “It was brought on by the idea of inventing a style of art that would never fade. Stones were seen as the perfect solution. They offer the same pictorial concept as a painting, but don’t fade over time like paint does,” explains Catia, daughter of Scarpelli Mosaici’s founder and master mosaicista Renzo Scarpelli.

“The reason it became so popular in Florence is because we have so many different types of stones available. You can find many examples of this craft in Florence and all over the world – Versailles, Paris, Spain. This style of mosaics is mainly found on table tops.”

Renzo’s interest in working with stone began when he was just 13-years-old, sparked by his time spent working at one of the most ancient Florentine mosaic workshops. “At the time when my father started working with stones, there were lots of workshops in Florence where kids could learn particular crafts in the hope of gaining an apprenticeship,” says Catia.

After completing his art studies and an apprenticeship in mosaic work, Renzo opened his own workshop in the 1970s, at the age of 22. And with this, Scarpelli Mosaici was born. An adjoining shop and gallery followed in 1999.

“During the 1970s and 1980s, stone mosaics was one of the most important arts in Florence,” Catia adds. “Now, there are about five workshops left in the whole world. There were so many mosaic workshops here in the 1980s, but most of them closed.

“While other mosaic workshops were closing, we realised the benefit of bringing the workshop and gallery together. Previously they were in two separate places. What we have here is a real workshop, just as the stone mosaic workshops used to be centuries ago. People can watch the artisans do the work and then see the finished products in the gallery.”

While Florentine stone mosaic work is becoming a dying art, the Scarpelli family is helping to preserve the city’s ancient tradition. The business is very much a family affair. Renzo’s son Leonardo is also a master mosaicista, following in his father’s footsteps. Renzo’s wife Gabriella designs unique pieces of jewellery from stone and repairs stone objects. And in addition to overseeing business activities, Catia offers visitors guided tours of the workshop and gallery.

To read the full article, see the November/December 2015 issue of Italianicious magazine.

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