Lapis lazuli evokes the depth of the sea and, with its precious golden veins and white nuances, a romantic summer night sky, or a blue sky crossed by cirrus clouds. It is also the colour characterizing so many images of the Virgin Mary in the Italian and European Middle Ages or Renaissance.
The exhibition Lapis lazuli – Blue Magic – open until 11th October 2015 at the Silver Museum of Palazzo Pitti – is devoted to the intense and impenetrable charm of blue lapis lazuli. The idea came thanks to the extraordinary collections kept inside this Florentine museum, featuring vases and carved sculptures in lapis lazuli, with their fantastic shapes inspired by the masterpieces of the Florence Mannerism.
This precious collection, started by Grand Duke Cosimo I, was enriched by his son Francesco I thanks to his passion for minerals and esoteric elements. Cosimo’s son actually introduced the first workshops of carvers working with this rare and precious blue stone in Florence. The stone was extracted from the Sar-e-Sang quarry, (on the mountains of what today is Afghanistan), the only known deposit in ancient times, also visited by Marco Polo in the 13th century and soon after associated with wealth next to gold, silver and other precious metals. That is why from 1572 on, carvers Gian Ambrogio and Gian Stefano Caroni from Milan started working inside the Grand Duke’s workshops inside the Casino di San Marco. Next to the masterpieces of the Grand Duke collections, the exhibition will feature extraordinary works coming from important museums such as the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Grunes Gewolbe in Dresden and the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg in Stuttgart. The exhibition is divided into four sections: From Nature to Artifice – Commesso (Semi-Precious Stones Mosaic) and Painted Stones – The Blue Stone in the Princely Splendour – From Ultramarine to Klein’s Blue). A work by French artist Yves Klein – along with a small section devoted to twentieth-century and contemporary jewelry – will complete the exhibition. Klein devoted the majority of his artistic experimentations to absolute blue. Courtesy Palazzo Pitti, Silver Museum, Florence, Italy.