The city and the world
Fine micromosaic brooch from Rome, around 1840
We would like to present to you here an exquisite piece of jewellery from the first half of the 19th century, a souvenir from a Grand Tour through Italy. In a simple setting of 14-carat gold, the brooch presents a rectangular micromosaic with probably the most famous sight and pilgrimage site of the city of Rome: St. Peter's Basilica with Bernini's collonades. Framed in black obsidian glass, we look from a slightly elevated vantage point at St. Peter's Basilica, with its square in front of it. In the right background we see the papal palace and in the center, casting a large shadow, the ancient obelisk. According to the legend, the ashes of Caesar are kept in its top. Moreover, visiting the obelisk grants indulgenza plenaria, that is, perpetual indulgence, if one touches it. Moreover, since we see St. Peter's Square without the gas lighting installed in 1854, grouped in large candelabra around the obelisk, we can safely date the mosaic to the first half of the century. Made of tiny glass stones, finely graded in colour and extremely rich in detail, the depiction still inspires unreserved enthusiasm today - micromosaics such as this have always been coveted art chamber pieces and collectors' items, which not only inspire with their craftsmanship but have also always been proof of a certain connoisseurship. Executed at a time when a trip to Italy cost a small fortune and the picture postcard for the dear ones at home had not yet been invented, souvenirs like this one were exactly what wealthy travelers acquired in Rome. Alongside Piranesi's engravings and original Roman antiquities or their plaster casts, the micromosaic developed into the must-have of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the era of the great educational journeys. Cf. the corresponding mosaics with representations of St. Peter's Square in Robert Grieco and Arianna Gambino: Roman Mosaic, Milan 2001 on page 145, 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 ever 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 muniti 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.