commesso fiorentino

Thanks to the discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii, a new chapter in the history of the use of colored marble began in the 18th century: objects were made, especially table tops, which at first constituted real souvenirs or became a source of curiosity for fans of classicism who came to Rome to admire the vestiges.

Sometimes, one would purchase an antique marble tabletop in order to have a document to keep continually before one’s eyes, a kind of handbook of practical reference; sometimes one would use it merely for decorative purposes. The Roman marble commesso top is certainly a work of great artistry, but its function is intended to be, beyond the practical, primarily to provide a visual document of stones that have now disappeared from actuality, and relegated to the world of ancient Rome.

Other cities, however, also had marble and semi-precious stone processing factories, of which those in Florence and Naples were the most significant. Florence and Naples imported marble from Rome for commissions, but this material was mixed with non-marble components: mother-of-pearl, corals, agates, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, malachite, jaspers. The result, of great richness and particular finesse.

Numerous marble artisans began to work with ancient marble, fabricating various objects, and table tops were constructed by assembling different qualities of ancient material, a fashion that would last until the late 19th century. Precious souvenir tables found a place in the homes of intellectuals and amateurs throughout Europe.


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