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H is for Hardstone

Published on , by La Gazette Drouot

Pliny the Elder attributed its invention to the Greeks. Fifteen hundred years later, the popularity of hardstone marquetry extends beyond architecture into the realm of furniture and the decorative arts. But the technique itself, which is costly and laborious, never changed.

Porphyry tabletop by Carlieri, 1816, Opificio delle Pietre dure, Florence.© A.-M.... H is for Hardstone
Porphyry tabletop by Carlieri, 1816, Opificio delle Pietre dure, Florence.
© A.-M. Minvielle
The chromatic richness of stones has always aroused wonder. The development of tools to work them opened the way to the exploitation of this mineral palette introduced during antiquity with opus sectile : a decorative technique consisting of juxtaposing different pieces of marble. Rediscovered with Roman archaeological revelations of the late 16 th century, this delicate art embellished the finest Roman interiors and tabletops. The Farnese Table is probably the most outstanding prototype. The countless geometric variations that characterize Roman production during the second half of the 16th century testify to the variety of motifs imagined by the architects, or drawn from…
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