The heart of the Roman Empire

The Roman Forum as a micromosaic, Vatican Workshops, Rome c. 1830

This excellent early 19th century micromosaic brooch, probably a souvenir from a Grand Tour, shows us one of the most famous sights of the city of Rome: the Roman Forum. Once the undisputed center of the Roman Empire, we see the area in ruins, symbol of the transience of all earthly power and splendor. With impressive refinement and detail, a large number of the ancient monuments are depicted on the small mosaic. From the foot of the Capitoline Hill, the view is eastward: we see on the left edge the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, erected in 203 A.D., while on the left edge rise the columns of the temples of Saturn and of the deified Emperor Vespasian. A single column can be seen in the centre. It was erected in 608 AD by the Byzantine emperor Phocas and is the last ancient monument added to the Forum. The mosaic is set in an expanse of sky blue glass. In the early 19th century, this color, reminiscent of forget-me-nots, was used in this evocative symbolism. For a souvenir of an unforgettable trip to the eternal city, the material is therefore an extremely appropriate choice. The mosaic is set in an 18-carat gold frame decorated with delicate engravings. Wonderfully preserved, the mosaic was probably created in the 1830s in the famous workshops of the Vatican. The setting bears the hallmark of the Papal States with the tiara and crossed keys on the reverse. In its exquisite fineness and wonderful motifs, the brooch is a magnificent highlight of any collection - and at the same time a piece of jewellery that can still be worn today, on special occasions!

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.

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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.

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