Massimo was particularly well-positioned to contribute to this new boom given his shop’s stock of historic pigments that restorers needed. His family’s famed art-supply store, officially christened “Zecchi” in 1956, was, even by 1966, widely considered to be Florence’s oldest and most traditional, with earlier iterations of the business dating as far back as the early 1800s. This history—and the shop’s dedication to developing products with the same materials and processes as the earliest Renaissance craftsmen—still sets it apart today.
“In the 1970s, an enthusiasm for ‘modernism’ began to orient artists towards new products and techniques, but we made a different choice,” Massimo explained. “Instead, we have always tried to preserve the sale, use, and knowledge of the ancient painting and craft techniques. Over time, it has become clear that these traditions are not only still valid, but actually more resilient in the long run.”
To these ends, Massimo points to Cennino Cennini’s 14th-century publication Il Libro dell’Arte—widely translated as “The Craftsman’s Handbook,” and the oldest extant Italian text about the practice of painting —as the philosophical foundation for his business. “We want to pass on only the most time-honored techniques,” Massimo added, “and Cennino Cennini has left us the oldest painting manual available.”
When it comes to applying these principles to artistic restoration efforts, nowhere is Zecchi’s iconic approach more valued than in the conversion of lapis lazuli into Blu Oltremare pigment. Mined predominantly from the mountains of Afghanistan, the stone’s lasting and vibrant blue hue has long made it among the most highly coveted raw materials for professional painters. Its name is a testament to the great lengths artists have historically been willing to go to in order to procure it.