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Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Italy

Fra Giovanni da Verona

Giovanni was the master of the illusionary intarsia open cupboard. The choir stalls at the Monte olivet Maggiore monastery near Siena are decorated with his panels. They were made around 1500.

At the time artists were exploring perspective drawing and objects had to be carefully laid out to be depicted accurately. On the upper shelf Giovanni chose to make a facetted globe, but then to complicate things it is constructed out of ribs so you can see through to the far side. On the lower shelf is an object called a mazzocchio. It is the form of a torus but the section through is octagonal. This is rendered realistically using only the palette of woods available in central Italy. Fantastic!

Hanging from the middle shelf are a set of tools with a ribbon running through them. There is a square, dividers, a straightedge and a triangle. The inlaid inscription reads, “These are the tools of intarsia.”

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