Urbi et Orbi

Fabulous demi-parure with micromosaics in gold, Rome circa 1857

Ancient micromosaics never cease to arouse the admiration of today's viewers. With what effort the tiniest stones were once so artistically assembled that entire landscapes and cityscapes were created! Throughout the 19th century, micromosaics from Rome were among the most popular souvenirs and found their way across the Alps in the luggage of travellers on the Grand Tour. This excellent demi-parure is one such early travel souvenir. The set consists of a brooch and matching earrings and presents a total of five fine micromosaics with views of the Eternal City and its surroundings. For example, the brooch shows a view of St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square enclosed by Bernini's colonnades. Around the central obelisk, moreover, we even see the gas lighting installed in 1854, of which one was particularly proud as a technical achievement and which none of the later mosaics of the place does without. The two long earrings each present two further micromosaics. They each show a diamond-shaped ornamental element with an inset oval mosaic under the bails with chains. We see here a view of the Pantheon as well as the Roman Forum. All mosaics of the demi-parure are set in black glass and are held by plain frames of gold. The stamp reveals that the demi-parure was created in the Papal States before 1860, so we can narrow down the period of creation to six years, between 1854 and 1860, based on the gas lighting already shown. The jewellery set, preserved in its original box, is not only for collectors of Grand Tour memorabilia, a possibility to dream oneself into the Eternal City.

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.

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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.