Sorcerers without apprentices: Simone Fiordelisi

Master of the Florentine mosaic

Amelia Éclectique
January 12, 2018 - 16:00

For many a seasoned Florentine sojourner, artisans of little- or largely-known status are as crucial a part of the city’s fabric as its best-loved landmarks. From the long-frequented jewellery purveyors lining the Ponte Vecchio to the tucked-away cabinet makers in San Frediano, such high-calibre craftsmanship is integral to the Tuscan capital’s DNA.

 

 

 

This considered, reports of talented tradesmen in Florence shutting up shop are visibly on the increase. Whether due to dwindling consumer demand, an inability to compete with today’s squeaky-clean chain stores or a lack of apprentices to succeed long-standing workshop owners—often a combination of all three—the notion of more impersonal shopping experiences overtaking these beloved botteghe is unsettling. Rather than take a defeatist stance, however, we should strive to kickstart the new year by celebrating the artigiani fiorentini keeping their artistic heritage alive.


One vibrant example is found in the masterful works of Simone Fiordelisi, a passionate connoisseur of scagliola, or “Florentine mosaic”, inlay that has characterized the interiors of Florence’s most ornate chapels since the turn of the 15th century. The technique in question involves the cutting of semi-precious stones, creating ornamental designs of different shapes and sizes; naturalistic motifs are a prominent feature. These patterns are then carefully inlaid into marble, employing a technicolour palette in the process.

 


 

Walking through the various phases that make up Fiordelisi’s work is, in itself, an exercise in patience. Commencing by sketching the proposed motifs on paper, he repeats this on marble before engraving with hammer and chisel, adding in colour and smoothing over the surface with a polishing wax. From start to finish, creations can take several months to complete: no stone is left unturned whilst crafting his highly decorative tabletops or inlaid marble fireplaces. Having happily taken the reins of his father’s workshop—the latter holding court in Oltrarno’s via de’ Barbadori, full-to-the-brim with multi-coloured decor—Fiordelisi’s “if it’s not broke” mentality is refreshing to witness.

 

As one of the last scagliola master craftsmen left in the city, he has struck a vital balance between upholding the tradition of this artistic technique and keeping digitally up-to-date, maintaining active social media channels and a regularly refreshed website, the former displaying his rapport with customers to full effect. Moreover, his effusive work ethos mirrors the attitudes of 80-something artisans who have poured blood, sweat and tears into their trade for decades. To think that this defining trait of a dyed-in-the-wool master craftsman has already solidified itself in Fiordelisi, a young man in his thirties, speaks volumes as to just how inherent his approach is.

 

 


As he sets into another year of marrying the roles of artist and artisan with colourful flair, Fiordelisi’s creative output isn’t just nectar for interior “maximalists”. It’s also an ode to living slower, embracing quality-driven design and investment pieces imbued with a personal touch. Such principles would do no harm to incorporate into your 2018 mantra.

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