Processing

Craftsmen and artists worked together in the Medici workshops (opificio) to create artefacts in stone. The painter played a fundamental part among them because he was the person who created the sketches,as was also the “stone seeker” (cercatore di pietre), in other words the person who knew everything there was to know about the raw materials and where to find them,another person again selected the colours he needed from among the various stones and this stage, known even today as “macchiatura” or colouring, is essential for the chromatic effect of the work.

Equally important experts continued the next stages in the manual process, working on the cutting and "matching up" (commettere) of the various hues (which led to it being called “commesso fiorentino”), so as to create a perfect match between the individual pieces and complete the composition of the entire mosaic, which was then polished by hand. Today the artist still personally follows the entire process with great care.

The search for the right stones, carried out in the same places where the artists originally found their materials, is still a particularly painstaking job and a vital step in the production of mosaics. Once this has been done, each block of rough stone is cut into slices measuring about 3 mm thick.
The artist creates subjects or themes inspired by reality that include landscapes, scenes from daily life, portraits, still lives or else designs that come straight from his imagination. The skill of the master craftsman is that of being able to create a "painting in stone" (pittura di pietra) by finding just the right hues that these materials offer in nature.

The design that is to be carried out is dissected into several small models that are then pasted onto the stone at the point of the chosen colour. Using the centuries-old technique that employs a curved branch of chestnut or cherry wood and a piece of wire, the mosaic artist (mosaicista) cuts each tiny piece by rubbing the stone with scouring powder and water so as to be able to cut the more complicated shapes as precisely as possible.

The artist uses a file to finish off the shapes of the pieces of stone until they fit together perfectly and then bonds them with a beeswax and rosin paste. A slab of slate is used as a backing and support for the composition.

The last step is taken up by the polishing, done by hand, which brings out the colours of nature in all their glory.


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