Renaissance! Literally the rebirth. I’ve talked before of Lapis Lazuli and its artistic uses but I deemed necessary to dedicate an exclusive post to its use by the master artisans of the Renaissance and what it meant to the Roman culture. Who hasn’t seen pictures of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel or Leonardo da Vinci’s? Lapis Lazuli Azzurro is a formidably example of heavenly craftsmanship.
I particularly had the incredible opportunity to admire in first hand the Sistine Chapel. I remember I used to get lost in the blueness of the heavens without realizing at the time that I was also admiring another piece of work in its self, the beautiful and unique Lapis Lazuli.
Artisans and painters from the ancient Rome, also used Lapis for religious shrines and decorative on the altars of churches.
In the Salle du Tresors in Paris at the Louvre are fine examples of lapis like the manuscripts of Chantilly where the French used it as pigments applied to the pages. Due to the frailness of the manuscripts one must wear a mask and turn the pages with wooden sticks to prevent decomposition.
Roman Emperor Augustus wife, Livia, in 1A.D was immortalized in a Lapis figurine carved of her face and affixed to a gold cross. It was a gift to Archbishop Herriman of Cologne. Emperor Augustus was one of the founders of the silk route. The silk route connected trade across Asia and he ruled Rome from 100-44 B.C. He was also the grandnephew to Caesar.
Roman Legionnaires wore seal ring set with gemstones. On his deathbed, Napoleon Bonaparte gave his son a signet ring of lapis. It was a token of love. The Roman practice of wearing seal rings continued and became a tradition. This style began in antiquity and merged into western lifestyle. To acquire an elegant and stylish Lapis Lazuli ring you only have to visit our favorite Nammu store.
Pliny the Elder, a scholar of repute, called lapis a star rock for its gold pyrite flecks.A fragment of the starry firmament - Pliny The Elder Click To Tweet
Throughout the Latin speaking Roman World the word “sapphirus” was used when they were really referring to Lapis Lazuli.
The Romans also employed lapis in the treatment of circulatory diseases, epilepsy and skin troubles. They also used it as an aphrodisiac and who knows maybe they still do. They used lapis earrings, bracelets and hypnotizing pendants.
In the Renaissance it was more expensive than gold. Michelangelo’s pigments included Lapis Lazuli for the Sistine Chapel (1475-1564). The Sistine Chapel is by far is one of the most exquisite uses of lapis pigment for the blues of heaven where the best stones were required.
Leonardo da Vinci, Fran Angelico and other master artists also wanted the mineral for pigments. They usually reserved lapis for the cloaks of Christ, Angels and especially the Virgin Mary.
During the Renaissance, the Medici of Florence, the prominent Italian banking family, also provided decorative stones to artists like Benevuto Celli and other master artists.
It was a mark of wealth to commission a painting specifying the use of lapis.
The Church also valued and esteemed beyond measure the decorative beauty of the chapels. So the purchase of colorants was very important under the pontiff Clement VI, 1342-1352. He directed the painting of the Chapel St. Michel, the Chapel St. Martial and the Chapel of St. Jean. For the Chapel of Avignon, France, Clement VI chose Italian artists from the Siennoise School directed by Matteo Giovanetti de Vitero. He was the official painter of many popes.
In the Renaissance the Goths of Europe migrated from the Near east to workshops of European artisans.
The paintings made during the renaissance used lapis until J.B Guimet, in 1826, discovered a method to synthesize and prepare a blue pigment in large quantities at a lower price.
The artisans obtained pigment powder by crushing, calcinating and red heating the lapis and then immerse it on water
The artists also treated the powder with acetic acid to dissolve the carbonates. Only a small amount, about two to three percent of the start up material, produced the final pigment. When lapis pigment dried, its strength remained unchanged during the course of centuries.
This ancient formula lapis powder is still used today by museum conservators and forgers Click To Tweet
Nowadays, this magical blue pigment obtained from Lapis Lazuli is mainly used in restoration work and by collectors of historical paintings.
It is simply incredible when you realize that this beautiful Lapis Lazuli was formed in the cataclysms of the earth sixty million years ago. And now we can enjoy it in the form of dazzling jewelry in Nammu.