|In the window of Bizzarri- color pigments in 19th century style jars|
|Via Condotta 32/R Firenze|
I've often likened paint-making to being "like cooking with color," and others have called my studio an "evil mad scientist's laboratory"- so you can imagine my exultation when discovering a collection of raw pigments in glass scientific vessels displayed in the window of D'Alessandro Bizzarri.
Behind an unassuming 19th-century style facade in the historic center of Florence, this small, dark wunderkammer of a shop is crammed with jars and bottles, and flasks, full of pigment, resins, and acids, as well as rare and remarkable spices, herbs, and oils.
|Everything you need to make your own potions and elixirs |
, or apothecary, is a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, when trade in pigments and spices followed similar routes to Florence, and these materials were handled by dealers in peculiar and exotic substances, who understood their uses and power. The Arte dei Medici e Speziali
, a high-ranking guild in medieval Florence, included pharmacists and physicians as well as painters, who had similar needs for the chemicals and raw materials that could be found in the apothecary's shop.
|Manna displayed in the window of Bizzarri along with exotic spices.|
|candied fruits, essential oils, and herbals...|
At Bizzarri you can find essential oils and tinctures for fragrances and cosmetics; tiny glass tubes of saffron and large blow-glass jars of artisan-made candied fruit. I bought some rose water to make a special iced tea (see below for recipe.)
|orange water and rose water, used in cooking as well as cosmetics|
|a display of spices, herbs, and cures|
In addition to these essential oils and herbs, there are pigments and resins for making paint, solvents and chemicals for artwork and restoration, and laboratory essentials like beakers, burettes, spirit lamps, and pipettes. Our colleague Theresa Cheek of Art's The Answer
was visiting Florence last week and came away with several particular angled pipettes she uses for her marbled papers, which the proprietors were able to locate quickly deep inside an antique cabinet full of glass scientific equipment.
It makes perfect sense to me that if you need a bit of something
whether it's gamboge or malachite pigment or some galangal or small measure of
arnica, that you seek it in such a place, and ask the advice of a knowledgeable apothecary.
An exhaustive list of the speziale
products offered can be found on the Bizzarri website
to one pint iced tea (recommend Earl Grey or other fragrant black tea)
add the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
2-3 teaspoons sugar, or honey, to taste
1/4 teaspoon rosewater
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
(this is my variation of a Lebanese iced tea)
all photos by Lynne Rutter, February 2014
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