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The furniture in this section shares a common technique known as pietra dura. This form of pictorial decoration using semi-precious hardstones was practiced by the ancient Romans and revived in several Italian cities in the early sixteenth century. A design is pasted on to a thin slice of stone and carefully sawn out using a wire saw. The resulting pieces are then laid like a jigsaw puzzle into spaces cut from other stones.

The chief uses of pietra dura in the Renaissance were for massive table tops and for the doors and drawers of large cabinets. In 1588 Grand Duke Ferdinando I de Medici established a workshop in the Uffizi at Florence that quickly became the leading centre for the art and remained in production for two centuries. Other rulers later founded their own workshops, of which the most celebrated was set up by Louis XIV at the Gobelins in Paris.

By the later eighteenth century, earlier furniture decorated with pietra dura had become unfashionable and was often broken up. However the panels were prized and frequently re-used in a new context. George IV's collection of furniture includes an outstanding group of examples of this practice.

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