Craftsmen demonstrate centuries-old Italian art form
Twenty pieces of Florentine mosaics, both traditional and contemporary, are on display at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
through Dec. 31
Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, 220 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst
(630) 833-1616; lizadromuseum.org
For centuries, highly-skilled Italian artists have cornered the market on flawless mosaics.
Well-done mosaics look like paintings from afar, but are actually made up of thousands of intricately cut gemstones.
Now the Lizzadro Museum of Lapiday Art in Elmhurst is displaying the Italian mosaics in a rare exhibit, “Florentine Mosaics,” through Jan. 10. The exhibit features both traditional and contemporary mosaics of landscapes, figures and florals.
“Lapidary art,” for those not in the know, is the art of cutting and polishing stones.
“Visitors will get a chance to see not only unique artwork, but also the very artists that have created and curated it over the years,” said Peter Vilim, of Elmhurst.
Vilim, an institutional money manager by day who is passionate about Florentine mosaics, is referring to the fact that as a supplement to the exhibit, Italian master craftsman Iacopo Lastrucci will fly in from Florence, Italy, to demonstrate how to make these mosaics on Nov. 10 and 11.
It is “kind of like Michelangelo coming over to paint your ceiling,” Vilim said. “No need to hop a flight to Italy — all the culture, artistry and history is coming here.”
The museum once commissioned Lastrucci’s father Bruno to create a mosaic portrait of the museum’s founder Joseph Lizzadro.
Vilim has traveled to Florence multiple times and knows Iacopo Lastrucci and his father Bruno personally, he said. The Lastrucci’s, in fact, created a mosaic portrait of Vilim’s daughters which the museum has featured in its exhibit.
Twenty pieces of Florentine mosaics are currently on display in the exhibit.
“I think it’s fascinating personally,” said Dorothy Asher, the museum’s director and a gemologist. “I mean these pictures are made of thousands of pieces of natural stone. They’re put together without the use of grout, and I think when you see them, you’ll understand why they’re so special.”
The museum, about 9,000 square feet in all, is home to all things stone, Asher said. Florentine mosaics featured here are exclusive to Florence, she noted, and have come directly from the private gallery there known as I Mosaici Di Lastrucci.
Pieces in the Florentine mosaics are put “together like a puzzle” Asher says. They are cut to fit precisely together. A wax along the back actually adheres the pieces of the mosaic to a slate backing.
“To see how intricately matched are the stones that comprise these works is amazing,” Villam said. “You can’t get that from a casual photo — you have to go to see it in person.”
The Medici family, known for their power and wealth while ruling over Florence for much of the 15th century, developed the mosaic art form in the 1500s, Asher said. They started making mosaics when they noticed that while paintings deteriorate over time, a picture made of stone “was a more permanent thing,” she explained.
“If you don’t appreciate stone in any way shape or form , you probably will take nothing away from this,” Asher admitted, “but if you have an interest in stone, you will come away with understanding a new art form, a type of mosaic that most people know nothing about.”