Sunday, August 9, 2009

Florence: The Mosaic Man

We decided to take a different route to the university on our last day in Florence. We took a right by our apartment into Via de'Macci, near Piazza Santa Croce, and ran right into Bruno Lastrucci's workshop just one block away. We said "permesso" equivalent to may we? And after getting a nod of approval, we walked in to find an amazing, perhaps breathtaking, collection of mosaic art.

The front room is Lastrucci's workshop. It is where he joined his father when he was eight years old. Working alongside him is his son, Iacopo Lastrucci.

We knew a bit about Florentine mosaic works from an earlier visit to the Pitti Palace where one can view some of the most beautiful mosaic works in the world. The Medicis loved the stuff. And Lastrucci's gallery has one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture wrapped in mosaic that was owned by the Medici. "We really don't know how it showed up in the gallery," Lastrucci says. "After World War II, the large piece just appeared here and has been here every since."

Lastrucci produces hard stone mosaics in the same way it was done in the Renaissance period. Semi-precious stones are sliced and then cut into tiny pieces to create puzzle style artwork representing small flower or fruit designs to be embbeded in furniture or large pieces depicting landscapes to be placed on the wall. He showed us stones of all colors and from all over the world --malacchite, agate, jade, amrthist, lapis lazuli, even petrified wood from Arizona. Each piece is entirely done mannually and often takes one-and-a-half to two years to complete.

We felt so fortunate to run into Lastrucci's studio and had the chance to hear directly from the artisan's mouth how this ancient form of art is done and has survived for centuries in Florence. We can't wait to take next year's students to his workshop.

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