Here is a passage from a conversation between Daniela and Marzia Banci and Ornella Casazza, the curator of the exhibition Tradition in Modernity.
In 1974, after a seven-year apprenticeship, Ornella Casazza won a national competition and started her career in the art restoration workshop Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop of Semi-Precious Stones) founded by Umberto Baldini.
Some of her most important restoration work in Florence includes Cimabue’s Crucifix in the Basilica di Santa Croce, Primavera by Botticelli, the Chapel of Brancacci in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine and the Giovenale triptych by Masaccio. After working in restoration, Ornella won further national competitions, became the director of the Museo Tesoro dei Gr
How did art restoration enter your life?
I started working in the art restoration workshop Opificio delle Pietre Dure at the age of 24, after winning a national competition. I thought artwork conservation suited me and I wanted to pass it on to future generations. I was attracted by its constituent materials and the images that represented it and of which I was so fond.
Your love of goldsmithing was born out of love of gold in paintings or of the jewels depicted in them?
The workshops were full of masterpieces by Cimabue, Giotto, Raphael, Botticelli and Caravaggio. I could get close to them and touch them. Their gold-ground panels shone under the (infrared, ultraviolet) light used to analyse them. Chemists and physicists used groundbreaking, high-technology instruments. It was like working in a space station.
Gold-ground panels are true jewels, albeit large in size. The gold leaf applied in ancient times and the lapis lazuli-ground truly represent the sky. One of the paintings I restored is Cimabue’s Crucifix, which stands out precisely for these two precious materials. Botticelli’s Primavera shows how an artist embellished his Graces with jewels that the world still admires today.
How much is goldsmithing art worth in today’s art world?
I Goldsmithing isn’t a minor art form – its materials and skilful workmanship are those of true masterpieces which only great goldsmiths know how to create. They can raise the awareness of those who aren’t familiar with this type of art, which isn’t taught at school, and may only be revealed by those endowed with ‘divine grace’.
What characteristics does contemporary jewellery need to have to be included in museum collections?
In contemporary times many great artists – sculptors, painters and architects – have devoted themselves to goldsmithing, not because they trained in schools, but because they felt the need to express themselves through small shapes with the same commitment and rigour they devote to larger works. Their products have always been widely appreciated because they are shaped by skilful hands which know craftsmanship, ancient art and modernity perfectly. Many of their works are permanently displayed in museum collections. Just like Daniela and Marzia Banci’s works belong to the collections of the Tesoro dei Granduchi at Palazzo Pitti (Florence).
What contemporary jewellery museum would Ornella Casazza like to inaugurate?
I hope that many museums, or perhaps even one specific museum, may be dedicated to this very attractive and precious discipline so that it may become part of the Italian cultural heritage.