These plaques (lots 2-3) are outstanding examples of the art of pietra dura inlay work as it was perfected in Florence in the mid-1700s. Truly ‘painting in stone,’ the craftsmen who executed these pieces with utmost precision and virtuosity were most likely employed by the Grand Ducal workshops (Opificio delle Pietre Dure), which were established in 1588 under the direct supervision of Prince Ferdinando I de’ Medici. Interestingly, up to the mid-eighteenth century the production of pietre dure was largely devoted to still-lives and decorative frameworks with only an infrequent, and not particularly successful, attempts at the human figure. The dramatic departure from old formulas at the ducal workshop was prompted by the permanent employment of engraver Giuseppe Zocchi in 1750, whose compositions can be directly compared to contemporary genre paintings, particularly those of Watteau, Boucher, and Vernet. Executed in a good selection of richly-colored stones, human figures took center stage in large inlaid plaques featuring allegories, capricci, as well as land- and cityscapes. Outstanding examples of such exuberant creations were sold Christie’s, New York, 11 December, 2014, lot 47 ($905,000) and Sotheby’s, Paris, 7 November, 2013, lot 193 (€1,463,900). The present and the following lot could have been part of larger series, such as the set of twelve equestrian panels sold Sotheby’s London, July 7, 2009, lots 19 and 20 (£181,250, each). For a comparable panel, see A. Giusti, Pietre Dure and the Art of Florentine Inlay, London, 2006, p. 180. Craftsmen at the Opificio used their ability to depict the human form on these small plaques from the tremendous amount of practice they acquired while preparing large and extremely intricate panels for lavish court commissions, such as those delivered at the Hofburg in Vienna for Francis Stephen of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany and husband of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria. The cartoons for these small souvenirs were sometimes reused while the selection of stones was never repeated. These small panels were also purchased by Parisian marchands-merciers who resold them to some of the most celebrated French cabinet-makers, such as Adam Weisweiler. For an example of how such panels were incorporated into furniture, see lot 65 in this sale.