Small compendium

Antique micromosaic pendant with cannetille, Rome circa 1820

The "invention" of the micromosaic we owe above all with Giacomo Raffaelli and Cesare Aguatti, who perfected around the year 1775 this technique already used in antiquity. They founded a tradition from which, until the end of the 19th century, astonishingly fine mosaics were created with such a richness of detail and artistry that had never been achieved before or since. The present pendant also demonstrates this artistry by assembling no less than five mosaics in a very small space. It combines two of the great themes that are dealt with in the medium of the mosaic: Against a red ground we see small animals, or more precisely, two flies and a butterfly. Typical for the early mosaics, the scenes are framed by millefiori stones, so-called murines, small glass stones, which unite several zones in different colours. At the top and bottom, however, are depicted against a blue background evidence of antiquity, the very ruins of classical antiquity for which this type of mosaic is so famous. Together they form a cross, finely set in gold and decorated with pearls and turquoise. The pendant was created in the years around 1825, when it was probably acquired by a traveller to Italy. The relatively precise dating is made possible by the filigree technique in which the gold is worked, the cannetille. Jewellery with cannetille was only popular for a short time, namely in the decade from 1820 to 1830. The technique is related to filigree and usually consists of finely hammered sheets and gold wires. The forms used consist mainly of tendrils, spirals and beehive-like elements that look like delicate lace and are often decorated with fine granules. Cf. with numerous examples Ginny Reddington Dawes/Olivia Collings: Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830, Woodbridge 2007, pp. 113-116 and David Bennet/Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, Woodbridge 2010, p. 82, p. 85, etc. The pendant carries a small locket compartment with glazing on her back, under which a lock of hair, for example, can be stored. A wonderful reminder of carefree days in Rome.

The origin of the art of micromosaic lies in Rome. Here, more precisely in the Vatican, a workshop for mosaics made of glass blocks existed since the 16th century. Initially, to protect the altarpieces in St. Peter's Basilica in a permanent form against candle soot, moisture and dirt, which the many pilgrims brought into the church. Later, after this task was completed, further copies of paintings were made as well as landscape representations in painting size. The idea of using this ultimately antique technique also for jewellery and for the decoration of craft objects arose at the end of the 18th century. As part of the Grand Tour, countless travellers from northern Europe arrived in the city, creating a great demand for souvenirs. Not least to serve this market, a whole new art form emerged: micromosaics are small and portable, and were therefore particularly suited to being taken back home to the north. Since they also usually show the beauties of Rome or motifs from antiquity, their success as travel souvenirs is hardly surprising. On the technique and history of the micromosaic, see the relevant literature: Maria Grazia Branchetti: Mosaici minuti romani, Rome 2004, with many works by Giacomo Raffaelli, as well as Roberto Grieco/Arianna Gambino: Roman Mosaic. L'arte del micromosaico fra '700 e '800, Milan 2001.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.