Born in 1958 in the Bergamo province of Northern Italy, Renato Olivastri began his professional career at the age of 14 in the local artisan workshops.
He transferred to Florence to study the Restoration of Wood Objects course at the Istituto per l’Arte e il Restauro “Palazzo Spinelli”.
In 1984 he received his diploma and at the same time began working in the atelier of a well-known and respected Florentine artisan specializing in the field of furniture and inlaid furniture restoration.
In 1990 Olivastri began his current activity in Via dei Velluti – site of the actual workshop – continuing his work on furniture and marquetry restoration.
Many inlaid furniture pieces have been restored in the workshop: tables and objects from the Sorrento area dating from the late 1800’s, Maggiolini-style chests-of drawers, tables and objects in ebony and ivory, objects in mother-of-pearl, Dutch credenzas and most notably, Boulle furniture and objects.
As a result of the collaboration with specialists in the restoration of wood panel paintings, Olivastri has also developed a knowledge, practice and competence in the techniques of treating the wood panel that make him a specialist in this sector.
Can be considered the maximum example of furniture marquetry.
This style takes its name from the French cabinet-maker André-Charles Boulle , active in Paris at the end of the 1600’s.
Boulle decorated furniture by covering the object with inlays, where instead of wood, various types of materials where used. Primarily, these materials consisted in brass and tortoise-shell, but also copper, pewter and silver were used.
The technique used is commonly known as “foro/controforo”: brass laminates are placed over specially treated thin sheets of tortoise-shell. The cut out work is made in the brass following the design desired.
From these cuts a positive area composed of the tortoise-shell base and a negative area consisting of the brass pierced work are obtained.
Often the brass – and at times the tortoise-shell – was then elaborated with incised designs known as the “bulinatura”.
Finally, the furniture piece was enriched by gilding and chiselling the brass.
The most important patron of Boulle work furniture was the royal household of
Boulle produced wardrobes, desks and sideboards for the king and the French nobility.
At Boulle’s death, the production was continued by his sons, in the “Boulle-style”, and expanded throughout France.
During the following century, and especially during the period of Napoleon III, Boulle work furniture became popular in Italy and in England. Today, especially in Italy, there are still workshops that special in the production of Boulle-style furniture. The most important institute in this area is the Boulle School in Paris.