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'Russian Mosaic' and its Italian Connection: Malachite in the Decorative Arts in the 1780s-1800s Open Access

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Patronage of malachite by the Russian court and members of the nobility culminated in the 1830s-1850s in creation of superb malachite-veneered objects and entire architectural interiors fitted with malachite. Well documented and available for study, malachite items of this period were at the core of scholarly attention, dubbing the malachite-veneering technique Russian Mosaic. Meanwhile, objects produced in the decades leading to the high point of malachite culture in Russia were never a subject of specialized study, which left unexplored the reasons behind the phenomenon of popularity of this particular mineral. By analyzing malachite objects made in the 1780s-1800s, this paper follows the progression of malachite from a natural wonder to a luxury material and discusses the role of creative exchange between Italian architects and artisans and Russian patrons in ensuring the mineral's initial success as decorative material. This paper contributes to the study of stylistic and technological diffusion in the decorative arts.

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