Visit to Giusto Manetti Battiloro and Galleria dell’Accademia

Today was our day off from iconography to visit the 1870’s factory of Giusto Manetti gold beaters in Florence.  We were met by my contact Eddie Martin who gave us the tour of the factory.   We arrived at 10 AM and were welcomed right away.  We first went upstairs to a classroom where there were three people picking 0.30 micron-thick sheets of gold with wooden  tweezers and palette knife, cutting them by hand and placing them in books.  They were training people in this particular skill.  Then, we were taken to the foundry where they melt the gold ingots and start the rolling process. We saw the melting and cooling of a piece of gold and got to hold a two pound and a one pound ingot of pure gold.  It will probably be the most money I will ever hold in one hand!  After that we went to another room where they begin cutting gold and silver strips in to tiny squares which then begin to be hammered into increasingly thinner sheets.  There are about three different hammering stages and finally then the hammering is done by hand.  These thin sheets are the ones that are cut by hand by the ladies we saw in the classroom; except most of this work is done by many people at home.

Irene and Maga in front of the Giusto Manetti factory.




Students waiting to enter the Giusto Manetti Gold Leaf factory building.

There are some parts of the process that are not accessible to the public and we were not allowed to take pictures inside the factory.  But, it was a great visit and most interesting for all of us who use the gold leaf on all our work.  I have a whole new appreciation of my favorite gold leaf.  I love it even more now that I went to see how it is made.

Old gold beating hammers on the wall.

After our visit to the 150 year-old factory which is still run by a member of the Manetti family, we went to lunch and met later at the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the icon collection housed at that museum. The most stunning icon is the one of “Our Mother of Perpetual Help” or “Madonna con Bambino e angeli con gli strumenti della Passione” by the hand of the famous Cretan iconographer Andreas Ritzos.  It was a large icon close to 4 X 5 ft.  and beautifully executed and preserved.

The Russian icon collection included some menaion panels, 2 total, comprising six months each, filled with the feasts and saints’ days for each month; also, several Russian icons spanning from the 16th to 19th century, which showed a predilection for the same themes.  There were several icons of identical sizes of the Rresurrection of Lazarus, St. George and the dragon, The Nativity of the Virgin which were obviously favored by the family who collected the icons.  There were a couple of icons of the Cretan/Venetian School, represented were St. John the Baptist as the angel of the dessert with the symbol of his martyrdom (his head on a platter) and St. Peter and Paul holding up a Church building.   Beside the icon collection we visited some of the galleries with pre-Renaissance altarpieces and enjoyed a video of the whole process of panel preparation, gilding, gold decoration, and tempera preparation and painting.  All in all, it was a great visit in a short amount of time. Needless to say, we also saw Michelangelo’s famous David.

The rest of the day was spent walking around Florence having lunch, shopping and dinner before catching our ride back to Terre di Baccio in the early evening.    Tomorrow, we will get back to working on the Crucifixion icon and which we plan to finish by Sunday.

Maga and Irene by the duomo in Florence.

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