Pillars of Hercules

Brooch with gold set micromosaic of the temple of Cori, around 1850

Not only the city of Rome itself holds amazing ruins to this day. Many other cities surrounding the Eternal City were also visited and admired as early as the 18th and 19th centuries for their often quite unique witnesses to ancient grandeur and history. The brooch here shows us a temple from Roman antiquity. We see the structure towering high above a podium. In the background on the right, the temple merges into a tower; moreover, on the right edge, another architecture seems to be attached. But all in all, the perfect preservation of the millennia-old building is astonishing. The temple of Hercules is depicted in Cori, a small town in the outskirts of Rome. Piranesi dedicated a separate sheet of his Vedute di Roma to this temple, which was built in the 1st century BC. The beholder's point of view is the same as that of our brooch. The gable of the ancient temple stands out dramatically against the sky. On the right we see an attached bell tower. Obviously, the temple was converted into a church in later times. It is obvious that the mosaic artists here had a copy of the sheet of Piranesi in their workshop, although they did deviate from the original in some details. For example, the huts at the left edge have become additional columns to make the temple appear even more majestic. The temple has also gained in depth. The oval mosaic is held in place by a frame of high quality gold. A circumferential cord soldering adds a decorative element to it. The brooch, created around 1850, tells then as now of the historical interest and education of its wearer!

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. 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.

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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.

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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.