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Antique brooch with micromosaic of the Colosseum, Rome 1870s

Travellers who visited Rome on the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries were particularly fond of bringing home micromosaics with views of the city as souvenirs. A beautiful micromosaic brooch of the early 19th century we may present to you in this offer: The small, oval mosaic shows the Arena, built between 72 and 80 AD under Emperor Vespasian, which was converted into a city fortress by the noble Frangipani family in the Middle Ages: The Colosseum. The view from the southwest side shows the partly ruinous condition of the monumental arena, which is perhaps precisely why it is so immensely impressive. On the right side we also see the famous Arch of Constantine, well recognizable by the characteristic shape of the three passages. Just in front of the arch, slightly to the left of it, we even think we can make out the remains of the Meta Sudans, that famous fountain of ancient Rome, which was demolished in 1936 to make way for the fascist parade route Via dell'Impero. Very beautifully, the executing artist has succeeded in capturing the atmosphere and lighting conditions in tiny glass tesserae. With astonishing refinement and knowledge of detail, the brooch thus presents the building that has become the epitome of Roman power and greatness, but also reminds us of the inevitable transience of all earthly splendor. The Roman mosaic of tiny glass stones is set in black glass and gilded silver. The formal language of this setting, with its antique, historicist uniformity of the row of identical elements, allows us to date the well-preserved brooch to the 1870s.

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, this was done to protect the altarpieces in St. Peter's Basilica in a permanent form against the candle soot, moisture and dirt that 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. Countless travellers from northern Europe arrived in the city as part of the Grand Tour, creating a huge 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. The "invention" of the micromosaic is associated above all with Giacomo Raffaelli and Cesare Aguatti, who perfected this technique around 1775. They founded a tradition from which, until the end of the 19th century, mosaics were created with such a richness of detail and artistry that had never been achieved before or since. For even today, corresponding mosaics are produced in Rome, albeit in significantly lower quality. Cf. on the technique and history of micromosaics 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.