Florentine mosaic
In all ages, natural stone has played the most important role in human life. Strong walls of this material allowed to hide from enemies or bad weather, and magnificent sculptures delighted the eye and soul. A special place in the art of turning a stone into cultural values is occupied by Florentine mosaic, the technique of which involves the creation of complex compositions from plates of semi-precious stones.
The roots of this artistic tradition go back to the Roman workshops of the Renaissance, when appeals to the experience of ancient decorative art were popular. Although in the XVII century. The Florentine masters, who achieved unsurpassed success in creating mosaics, became the undisputed leader and, as they would say nowadays, the "brand" became Rome.

In many ways, this was due to the difference in mosaic production techniques. Roman style suggested work, mainly with marble . As a rule, ornamental compositions of semi-precious stones were encrusted into stone slabs. The Florentine approach was the exact opposite - the most complex compositions did not require any basis, completely forming marble countertops, caskets or any other products. It is very skillfully used the specific characteristics of the material, such as texture, subtle nuances, various inclusions. Harmoniously selected components greatly enhanced the impression.

The history of Florence is closely connected with the name of the Medici - a famous family, whose representatives were the rulers of the city during the Renaissance, in the XVI-XVIII centuries. - Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The true flowering of the Florentine mosaic in the second half of the XVI century. associated with the activities of the Grand Duke Ferdinand de Medici I, who created well-equipped workshops that produce a wide variety of secular and church decorations. In order to get an idea of the scope of work of this workshop, suffice it to say that the stocks of semi-precious stones collected for its work have not been exhausted yet.

One of the main features of the Florentine mosaic was the use of stones to create realistic images, and not just ornaments that were abstract in nature. There is a real "stone painting", when with the help of small tightly fitted plates to each other masters created real masterpieces, taking even such difficult topics as "The Last Supper".

Another area that later became particularly popular was the production of compositions that imitate bulk objects. A peculiar 3-D effect was achieved by painstaking selection of components, taking into account the subtle gradations of shades and their further combination using a seamless fit technique. It is quite natural that such works were valued unusually high, as a result, up to the 17th century. the production of the Florentine mosaic was monopolized by the state, as a kind of strategic industry.

The main material for creating mosaics were so-called. "hard stones" or "pietredure". It should be noted that the characteristic "solid" in this case is rather arbitrary, since far from all the stones assigned to this type could boast of outstanding strength characteristics. Rather, it should be noted criteria more artistic than the physical properties - brightness, brilliance, variability of color transitions. In this sense, the use of such materials as onyx, jasper, quartz, rock crystal, marble, etc. seems quite logical.

As for the geography of mining, it was very extensive. Some stones were mined in relative proximity to Florence, for example, jasper was brought from deposits in Sicily and Corsica. Others had to be brought from all over the world, establishing trade relations with the merchants of India, Afghanistan, Tunisia and many others.

The Florentine masters have achieved outstanding success in studying the properties of stones and developing specific methods of influencing them in order to obtain the necessary result. For example, some types of marble were exposed to heat, as a result of which the stone acquired a pink hue. The technology of working with chalcedony is interesting, after pieces of rock were lifted to the surface, they were subjected to slow heating, and then sent back underground for a period of about a year. As a result, it was possible to achieve increased brightness of color and brilliance.

Unfortunately, with the end in the middle of the XIX century. the history of the Duchy of Tuscany, the Florentine workshop descended from the historical scene. However, its traditions were accepted by that time in many European states and continued to exist in one form or another.