The eternal city
Classic micromosaic brooch from Rome, around 1860
In black framing, we look from a slightly elevated vantage point at St. Peter's Basilica, with its square in front and the colonnades of Gianlorenzo Bernini. In the right background we see the Papal Palace and in the middle, casting a large shadow, the ancient obelisk. According to the legend, the ashes of Caesar are kept in its top. Moreover, a visit to the obelisk grants "indulgenza plenaria", that is, eternal indulgence, if one touches it. Made of tiny glass stones, finely graded in colour and extremely rich in detail, the representation still inspires enthusiasm today - micromosaics like this one have always been sought-after 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 were exactly what wealthy travelers acquired in Rome. Alongside engravings by Piranesi 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. The jewel sets the mosaic in high-carat gold and turns it into a brooch. The mosaic shows St. Peter's Square with the gas lighting installed in 1854, grouped in large candelabras around the obelisk; we therefore date the brooch to around 1860. Cf. the corresponding mosaics with depictions of St. Peter's Square in Robert Grieco and Arianna Gambino: Roman Mosaic, Milan 2001 on page 145, from various Roman collections, and Maria Grazia Branchetti: Mosaici muniti romani, Rome 2004, p. 26.
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 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.
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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.