Various colors and styles of scagliola columns

Scagliola: Historical retrospect of a valuable art

There are only few people who are familiar with the art of Scagliola, a fascinating and special technique, that uses natural components, managing to render perfectly the result of valuable materials, such as marble, and other natural stones, semiprecious stones etc.

The history of Scagliola probably originates since the ancient Greeks and Romans, as Scagliola works have first appeared during those times.

The greatest flourish of the art of Scagliola was during the 16th – 17th century. During this transitional period, between the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque era, emerges the Scagliola art. Italy is considered Scagliola’s birthplace, meanwhile the following years Scagliola’s wide spread in the rest of the Europe is observed. Guido Fassi (Carpi, 1585-1649) is considered as the most potential constructor of the new technique, who manages to create a perfect rendering of marble (a material of great importance, then and nowadays) by using natural components combined with a special technique. From then and on the utilization of this new method has started, beginning with historical buildings and cathedrals in Italy, Austria and Germany. Old cathedrals in Carpi, Gottro and Florence of Italy, the Residenz of Munich are some of a large number of works with Scagliola elements that stand until nowadays.

It is important to notice some basic information concerning the time that the development of Scagliola’s art has began. The most important feature, as it regards the style of this transitional historical period, is the gradual abandonment of the simple forms of the Renaissance and their replacement by more dynamic and vivid forms. The appearance of the Scagliola art serves the desirable new style in the best way. Marble and other stones are rendered perfectly with the new technique. These materials are very commonly used in that period, a period that we have a vivid and luxurious decoration. From that time it is clear that no one can understand the difference between the Scagliola’s works and the ones made from marble or other valuable stone. Not even the most skilled or suspicious visitor.

However, all art historians mention that the art of Scagliola was never only used as an economical alternative, in order to replace valuable materials. On the contrary, it has emerged as an extremely valuable art through centuries, with masterpieces highly appreciated by kings and rulers of that time. Respectively, nowadays the works of Scagliola are highly appreciated as works of great artistic value, as we can see in galleries, auctions and in the world artistic market in general. Florentines artisans emphasize from those times till nowadays, that the engraving on surfaces with this finest way is possible on Scagliola works; while it is impossible on marble, even tried by the most skillful artisan.

Therefore, the art of Scagliola even though it was born by natural components, it developed into a valuable art reflecting the elegance and the style of that time, with masterpieces that without Scagliola’s art would have never been made.