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The Renaissance and the Italian Masters of Wood in Florence, Milan, Venice, Siena and Rome

Updated on November 30, 2014

The Italian Masters of Wood

Tuscany offers beautiful examples of fifteenth-century furniture , and mainly noteworthy are carved, inlaid, painted, and gilded furniture at Florence and Siena. The Renaissance traditionally extended from the beginning of the 15th century until the mid-16th century, and, especially in Northern Italy, ivory and mother-of-pearl were combined with wood which met with new forms and new demands of life, particularly in Milan, Venice and Rome.

The relationship between the art of furniture and the fine arts are extremely interesting, and history of furniture of the Italian Renaissance is closely mixed with the history of painting , sculpture and architecture. The results appear geographically varied, depending on the different regions of Italy. The appearance of the furniture changed with the change of place: it would be enough to recall the typical appearance of the furniture at Siena, and the technique of the Renaissance furniture required great skill and technical expertise as elsewhere.

In the sixteenth century the domestic furniture was enhanced with new forms that met the new demands of life, and its decoration was more alive and more richly-especially in Milan, Venice and Rome, while Florence remained more sober. The so-called “cassone” appeared, but combined with the northern Italian “arcibanco” [=large coffer] and with chest of central Italy. The high chair, often covered with leather or fabric, alternated both with the chair with arms-rest and the high-back chair. The dresser was often polygonal in shape, with a central leg, while the rectangular table had different designs, as we can see since the beginning of the 16th century in Liguria.

Worth mentioning between the 15th and 16th centuries are also pewters (composition of tin and silver), in which all Venetian craftsmen were unbeatable masters. In fact, they knew the secret arts of working with lead, copper, or embossed parts to chisel, in gold, silver, enamel and “niello”. Sometimes putty was used in place of the inlay by the great masters of wood, who often used clay as an ornamental material. In northern Italy , ivory and mother of pearl were used by the Carthusian monks for the implementation of the so-called “Carthusian work style” [= lavoro alla certosina].

Visit Italy and enjoy its great art.

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