Painting with Stone

March 4, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
Florence, Tuscany

Take time to visit this tiny jewel in Florence: the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Literally meaning “Factory of Hard Stones”, this lovely  museum is an excellent antidote to “compulsory tourist sites” overload. The subject of its collection is semiprecious stone and its use in intarsio (inlay) for the production of all sorts of decoration.


The craft of inlay work goes back to antiquity, but it was revived on a grand scale by Ferdinando I de’ Medici for the decoration of the furnishings, artworks, and architecture seen today all over Florence. In fact this Grand Ducal workshop was established to carry out the elaborate stone inlay work found  in the Cappella dei Principi (Basilica of San Lorenzo). The art of assembling stone fragments to cover large or small surfaces, including objects, furniture or whole walls, was studied and perfected by skillful and carefully chosen artisans.


The thin layers of stone veneer were selected for color, brilliance, and opacity or translucence to create refined pictorial effects.


The museum is dedicated to the display of intarsio work, its history, and its many uses. Also on view are work benches and  tools used in antiquity to create the pieces, as well as wall displays containing countless specimens of the stones (and their origins) used.

Today the Opificio is a renowned institution for training and restoration of all kinds.

Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Via Alfani, 78, Firenze

Many thanks to Rebecca Dominguez and Bradley Griffin for the use of their beautiful photos.
Released under CC License nc-sa-2.0
Final three photos by Patricia.

Patricia Glee Smith

by Patricia Glee Smith

Accomplished artist and very involved archaeology aficionado based in Otricoli, Umbria. Click here to view her artwork.

7 Responses to “Painting with Stone”

  1. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Many thanks for this! I had intended to visit this museum in the past and am grateful for this timely reminder to not miss the experience.

  2. In a world enamored with plastic & resin replicas it is a blessing to see the real deal. Thank you so much for the history lesson. Beautiful pictures.

  3. Anna Mangus

    I agree with Tom’s comment! What an amazing art form that I would have otherwise not known about – THANK YOU!

  4. Joan Schmelzle

    I have heard of this museum before, but have never visited it on my stays in Florence. I have added it to my list for nexdt time.
    Thanks so much!

  5. Anstell Ricossa

    Do hope to be able to visit this marvelous Museum. It certainly is on my “bucket list” !

  6. This is Creativity at its best and I praise these unique artigiani for these noble works that will survive for many more centuries giving joy to thousands of viewers.

  7. I’ll never know how we missed this museum! We are ardent lovers of pietradura and have a small collection of small framed examples of this
    exquisite work, which we purchased at Pitti Mosaici just across from the palazzo. Our 1st aquisition was in 1951 and is a chessboard made up of samples of the multi-colored marble. Our 2nd is also from the 50’s and is an abstract in shades of beige and tan…a ruined Roman aquaduct and white obelisk. The newer pieces are Florentine baroque church facades, a Tuscan winding “strada” and a scene along the Lago M.aggiore…all places dear to our
    hearts. We treasure them.
    Thanks so much for this posting.
    Ciao! Arden Fowler


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