Inscribed ‘Ricordi di Firenzi’ (Memory of Florence), this bowl would originally have been a souvenir, brought back from Italy by a Grand Tourist. The Grand Tour was a journey across Europe, and sometimes the Middle East, undertaken by wealthy young men in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. The tour was seen as an opportunity to socialise with the elite of society and to be educated in the arts. Grand Tourists would often collect sculptures, paintings, architectural models, and pieces of decorative art, and bring them home as reminders of their travels. This bowl would have encouraged its owner to fondly recall his time in Florence, Italy.
The bowl is shaped like a flower, with each petal a different ‘pietra dura’ work. Italian for ‘hard stone’, ‘pietra dura’ items are created by fitting together (‘commesso’) different coloured marbles and gemstones. These vibrant designs are offset by a black marble backdrop. The central oval depicts a collection of letters—one of which is signed ‘Ricordi di Firenzi’—accompanied by a bunch of blue ‘forget-me-not’ flowers, and a pair of butterflies. The medallions that encircle the oval variously depict white calla lilies, a yellowy-white rose, a bunch of pinky-white hibiscus flowers, doves with blue forget-me-nots in their beaks, and garden birds perched on the branches of fruit trees. These ‘pietra dura’ scenes are set within gilt bronze (ormolu) frames, with twisted rope-work borders. The frames are joined together by gilt bronze scrolls and seashell motifs. The bowl is fitted with two twisted and beaded ring handles.