Friday, August 22, 2008

SUBLIME! THE MET’S Art of the Royal Court, Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe

Text, Vivian G. Kelly
Images, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There are very few places in New York that are more relaxing than the galleries at the MET. We spent a very pleasant weekday morning this summer with Fashion Designer, R. Scott French, touring the PIETRE DURE exhibit.
The Exhibit was deceptively large, what we thought would be one room of items turned out to be room after room filled with treasures created by Italian and German artists.
The MET has an excellent audio that explained the background of the key pieces on exhibit, with an introduction by the incomparable Philip de Montebello.

From the Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century, Kings and Sovereigns sought to impress their peers from other nations, by gifting one another magnificent objects ranging from snuff boxes to table tops [on the invitation] to cabinets. These luxury objects of carved and inlaid semiprecious stones are every bit as impressive today as they were back then.


“Pieter Dure” is an Italian term. Literally, it means “hard stones”.
In actuality, it is the artistic cutting of semiprecious stones to fashion luxurious objects that range from architectural ornament and furniture, to ornate display “objets” to jewelry. These small polished stones can be used to create a spectacular image such as the seascape on a console table, titled “Allegory of Sea” Some of the stones used are: agate, lapis lazuli, and other colorful hardstones.

Many of these items are then embellished with gold and silver mounts or exotic woods, such as the Cabinet made for the Elector Palatine in Florence dating from 1709.

HIGH POINTS: All of it was beautiful but at the top of our list are:

#104 CONSOLE TABLE FEATURING ALLEGORY OF WATER from Florence, designed by Giuseppe Zocchi and the lapidary work by Rubini and frame by Bombicci, dating from 1761.

#106 CONSOLE TABLE TOP DEPICTING ALLEGORY OF AIR also designed by Giuseppe Zocci, dating from 1766.

#107 CONSOLE TABLE BASE DECORATED WITH FLOWERS AND BUTTERFLIES, from Florence, carved by Giovanni Battista Dolci and gilding by Francesco Ristori, dating from 1766.

#90 [*our favorite] SNUFFBOX from Berlin, dating @ 1765, possibley designed by Jean Guillaume George Kruger. This exquisite pieces is composed of Chrysoprase, diamonds, hardstones, gold, and metal foil.

This is an exhibit that is not to be missed.
*TIP – GET the audio tour, it will heighten your experience, and set aside at least one hour to go.
ENDNOTES: THE exhibition was made possible by Mercedes & Sid Bass, Frank Richardson & the Honorable Kimba Wood. The exhibit will be open until September 21, 2008

To see more of what the MET has to offer in the coming months visit,