FIORI FOGLIE SPINE. Botanical wax models from the Specola Museum in Florence

With the emblematic title “Fiori foglie spine”. technicians of the Opificio, something absolutely exceptional: a surprising selection of wax botanical models from the unique collection in the world of almost 200 life-size botanical models from the Museo della Specola in Florence.

They will be displayed at the Opificio Museum for a single month (from 6 November to 6 December), in an exhibition curated by director Laura Speranza.
Those exhibited at the Opificio museum are masterpieces of wax modeling, considered among the most beautiful in the world. The imitation of reality and the executive refinement of the ancient Florentine wax modellers who created them during the 18th century still arouse amazement today. We admire, in particular, the creativity with which these craftsmen-artists have drawn on the use of the most varied materials to obtain natural effects, such as the addition of a silver dust to obtain the brilliance of the surface of the Euphorbia canariensis, the addition of real thorns in cacti or the use of light vegetal filaments, similar to spider’s web, to simulate that sort of down found between the small fat leaves of Sempervivum arachnoideum.

These wax plants document the extraordinary variety of the plant world known between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century and were intended to amaze and educate the public of the Natural History Museum of Florence, commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine, in 1775.
At the time, the Museum was equipped with a wax-making workshop where expert wax-making artists, in addition to creating anatomical models, also produced these splendid botanical specimens identified with the scientific name, in Latin, according to the nomenclature introduced by Carlo Linnaeus only a few years earlier ( Species Plantarum, 1753).
That’s not all, each model is housed in an elegant Doccia porcelain vase, produced in the well-known Ginori factory, a true emblem of the refined taste of its client and of an era in which science was accompanied by Beauty and Art .

Fiori Foglie Spine
Iberis semperflorens

In the small, refined exhibition at the Opificio Museum, before their display in the new layout of La Specola for which it is to some extent a pioneer, it will be possible to appreciate seven of the most interesting botanical models in wax, flanked by images of the corresponding plants present in nature.
“Essential educational equipment allows for an in-depth study of the executive technique of the wax plants and the activities carried out in the recently completed restoration, where Chiara Nepi’s botanical consultancy played a decisive role,” announces director Laura Speranza.

The Superintendent of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Emanuela Daffra, underlines, for her part, how “the restoration of this group of precious artefacts is part of the tradition of fruitful collaboration of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, through its material restoration sector, ceramic, plastic and vitreous, with the Natural History Museum for the recovery and maintenance of its rich heritage of wax works, from anatomical to botanical models”. Lucilla Conigliello, Technical Director of SMA – University of Florence, states: “As the Museum System of the Florentine University we are really pleased to be able to give with this small exhibition a preview of the extraordinary work carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure for the restoration of botanical waxes which in a few months everyone will be able to appreciate in the new layout of the La Specola Museum, which will be truly very evocative. The debt of gratitude that binds us to the Opificio is great, for many activities and interventions planned over the years, on assets that are also very different from each other. It is a privilege to be able to collaborate with officials and restorers of the highest profile, sharing intentions, to guarantee the conservation of unique works of art.”

Where, How, When

06 November 2023 – 06 December 2023

Florence, Museum of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Opificio delle Pietre Dure Press Office:
Studio ESSECI, Sergio Campagnolo
tel. +39. 049.663499 (ref. Simone Raddi)

Opificio delle Pietre Dure Cultural Promotion Office:
Maria Emilia Masci

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