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Specimen Marble from The Grand Tour

Specimen marble tabletops and decorative objects were popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly among Grand Tour clients visiting Italy. The workshops of Rome were renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship, creating stunning works of art that featured intricate designs and a wide range of marbles and other decorative stones.

One of the most significant influences on the creation of these objects was the rich remains of ancient Rome. The city’s abundance of ancient marble sources gathered from the city’s numerous ruins and ancient monuments of the Roman Empire allowed artisans to use an incredible variety of marble samples for their creations.

A rare record of the origins of stones from a specimen marble tabletop. Detailing the specific ruined ancient Roman temples. Private collection.
A rare record of the origins of stones from a specimen marble tabletop. Detailing the specific ruined ancient Roman temples. Private collection.

Faustino Corsi

One notable collector of decorative stones during the early 19th century was Faustino Corsi, a Roman lawyer whose collection comprised 1,000 polished slabs, each of a different decorative stone. His collection included stones used by the ancient Romans, Italian stones used from medieval times to his own day, and a selection of decorative rocks and minerals from England, Russia, and other countries.

Early 19th-century specimen marble-topped gueridon raised on a fluted faux porphyry and gilt metal column raised on a tripartite base with gilt feet.
Early 19th-century specimen marble-topped gueridon raised on a fluted faux porphyry and gilt metal column raised on a tripartite base with gilt feet.

Francesco Sibilio

Another notable artisan from Rome during the 19th century was Francesco Sibilio. He was known for his intricate pietra dura designs, which often featured juxtapositions of geometric shapes and a variety of decorative stones. Sibilio’s work was highly sought after by Grand Tour clients, who appreciated the incredible skill and artistry required to create such intricate designs.

Francesco Belli

Francesco Belli was a collector and dealer of rare and exotic stones, which he used in his own work and sold to other artisans. He was particularly interested in porphyry, a type of igneous rock that was highly prized in ancient Rome for its deep purple colour. He was also known for his collection of antique marble and for his expertise in identifying and sourcing rare stones.

Rare specimen stones as inlaid pebbles
Rare specimen stones as inlaid pebbles

Cesare Roccheggiani

Cesare Roccheggiani was an Italian micromosaic artist who worked in Rome during the late 19th century. He was known for his intricate and detailed micro mosaic works, which often depicted historical, architectural and mythological scenes.

Giacomo Raffaelli

Giacomo Raffaelli was a famous micromosaic artist who worked in Rome during the 19th century. His work was known for its incredible detail and realism, as well as for its use of unusual coloured glass and exotic stones. Raffaelli often incorporated scenes from ancient Rome into his work, making his pieces particularly popular with Grand Tour clients.

Types of Specimen Marble

One of the most popular stones used in the creation of specimen marble tabletops and decorative objects was Sicilian Jasper. This stone features a range of colors, including white, black, and shades of red, making it a popular choice for creating intricate designs. Other popular stones included Imperial Egyptian Porphyry, Greek Porphyry, Granito Verdi Della Sedia Di San Lorenzo, Agata del San Gottardo, Pietra Alberese, Rosso Antico, Rosso Levanto, and Belgium Nero.

In addition to these stones, artisans also incorporated other decorative materials such as pure blue lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and rich green Russian malachite into their creations. These stones were highly prized for their intense colours and unique patterns and were often used to create eye-catching accents in pietra dura designs.

The specimen marble tabletops and decorative objects made in the workshops of Rome during the 18th and 19th centuries were some of the most beautiful and intricate works of art of their time. These pieces were created by skilled artisans who had access to a vast array of rare and exotic stones, and who were skilled in the use of inlay techniques like pietra dura. Today, these pieces are still highly prized by collectors and are considered some of the finest examples of decorative art from this period.

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