On the dog came

Antique brooch with micromosaic of a spaniel, Italy circa 1860

Travellers from Rome were particularly fond of bringing home micromosaics depicting the famous sights of the Eternal City. However, this cute brooch proves that other motifs were also in demand. The micromosaic of small glass sesserae in black glass shows us the detailed portrait of a small dog. The spaniel is sitting on a blue cushion with golden tassels and appears distinguished. It is a so-called King Charles Spaniel, a breed that, since the English King Charles I, was initially popular mainly at the English royal court and in British aristocratic circles, but soon spread to all other countries in Europe. It was probably an English traveller who brought the oval mosaic with him over the Alps. There, as was often the case with micromosaics, it was given a simple setting of gilded pinchbeck. To be worn as a brooch, the piece was proof of a Grand Tour to Italy and at the same time an expression of love of animals and royal sentiment. The brooch, created around 1860, is a wonderful, decorative piece of jewellery in the rare medium of micromosaic with a touching depiction of a dog. Cf. the corresponding mosaics with representations of Spaniels in Roberto Grieco/Arianna Gambino: Roman Mosaic. L'arte del micromosaico fra '700 e '800, Milan 2001, on page 62f, with examples from various Roman collections.

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. 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. 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.

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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.

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