The works

For this edition of Arts of Italy OVS has taken inspiration from an amazing heritage – that of the Italian decorative arts, whose intrinsic value lies not only in the beauty of the objects per se, but more especially in the craftsmanship of those who designed them.

Photos by Giorgia Benazzo.
Project curated, with research of artworks and editing of contents by Davide Rampello, Greta Carandini and Tania Di Bernardo.

Inlay work table top

Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

The Florentine mosaic technique - also called ‘commesso’ in Italian - used for this floral and dove motif table top is a a veritable patchwork of only apparently unitary images born from the combination of a multitude of stone pieces which are shaped and assembled to fit together perfectly. The word ‘commesso’ derives from the Latin ‘committere’ meaning putting together.

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Riding helmet

Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

The steel helmet, the work of Pompeo della Cesa, is part of a small equestrian and foot suit of armour that belonged to Renato Borromeo. Enhanced by engraved decorations with motifs of entwined ribbons, tiles, rings, allegorical figures, horses’ bits, and gilded trophies, standing out against a granite, blackened background. The helmet, made in Brescia, dates back to the late 16th century.

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Gemstone with engraved decoration

Silver Museum, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Diana the Huntress stands out from the centre of a precious gold wire mount. Wearing a knee-length tunic, she was portrayed in the 19th century by master engraver, Giovanni Santarelli, as she takes an arrow from her quiver while her bow is held in her right hand and a running dog is depicted at her feet.

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Gem on lapis lazuli

Silver Museum, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Against the deep blue of a lapis lazuli stone, encapsulated in a gilded silver mount sits the elegant profile of Apollo who, with bow and quiver on his shoulder, is chasing the nymph, Daphne, whose raised arms are being transformed into laurel leaves. The engraving, depicting the famous myth of Daphne and Apollo, dates back to the 17th century.

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Inlay work table top

Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

This porphyry table top with its shell, coral and pearl motif decorations is emblematic of the semi precious stone working technique also known as ‘stone painting’ precisely because these fine mosaics with their meticulous juxtaposition of hundreds of stone fragments required sophisticated technical expertise and produced work designed to last for ever.

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Buckler

Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

The buckler, a circular shield dating back to the 19th century, was one of the most fashionable weapons in the Renaissance. Its circular structure is in engraved steel, enhanced by an elaborate radial decoration, with woven leaves, flaming rays and eight-point stars, culminating in the centre with a rose formed of gilded leaves.

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Inlay work table top

Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

With a vast range of over 600 stones from all over the world, it was the Medici family which initiated this historic, precious inlay work tradition. This table top decorated with polychrome inlay work on Oriental chalcedony is an extraordinary example of an ancient technique which exploits the natural painting palette of stones to create painterly effects.

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Helmet

Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

The riding helmet dating back to 1570 is a precious relic, made in Brescia with artistic engraving in iron. It does in fact have ancient roots, dating back to the Celtic rule over the area in the 5th century BC. It is made so prestigious by the elegant decorations with lime leaf motifs that feature all over the front section.

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Remains of equestrian armour

Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

The equestrian armour consists of pieces of different origin, even if in perfectly compatible style. The particular decorations, with strips decorated with trophies and plants, typical of 16th-century Lombard items, are in fact the distinguishing features that bring together and characterise the different independent parts, reconstructing a whole piece with an evocative effect.

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Pouring jug

Silver Museum, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Large Nautilus shaped shells like that of this 17th century cup were imported from the Middle Ages onwards all over Europe from the ports of Southern China where workshops specialised in decorating mother-of- pearl shells. Highly skilled goldsmiths took the art of mounting these Oceanic wonders into sophisticated gold plated silver mounts to the courts of Europe from the 16th century onwards.

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