Craftsmen of gold leaves

Craftsmen of gold leaves

From the eastern lands, and from ancient civilisations, the “Battiloro” handicraft was transmitted to Egyptians and Romans (in Latin: “aurifex brattarius”), but it’s only around the year 1000 that the Venetians discovered this art, thanks to their relationship with the magnificent Byzantium. As the Venetia aristocracy, made of merchants and traders, was growing in wealth and power, the “batifogia”, so-called craftsmen of this art, increased their importance and activities in the city, so that they created a sort of corporation with its particular rules, which would assure them patronage and protectionism, but was at the same time extremely severe in punishment of cheats and trespassers.

The melting of gold

When, several centuries later (1797) Napoleon and the Campoformido treaty notified the end of the Venetian Republic, this noble art, as many others in which Venetians were masters, decayed, and the sound of hammering of the precious metal was no longer to be heard along the silent “calli” and the inactive ateliers. It’s only in 1926 that this manufacture comes back to life and finds a splendid seat in the same palace (Cannaregio 5182), which had hosted the famous painter Tiziano Vecellio.

The making of the gold leaf in Venice: the Battiloro

The square-shaped gold leaves 50mm large, are laid separately from each other on chalk-dusted papers, and hammered for 2 hours in a special sound-proof room. After being evenly cut and regularly filled-in where necessary, they are gathered with utmost accuracy and delicacy, in booklets by 25 pieces each. Gold and silver in leaf is the final result of a “battiloro”’s work.