sic transit gloria mundi

Micromosaic of the Forum Romanum as brooch, Rome around 1840

The coronation ceremonial of the popes contained a warning that reminded even the Holy Father of the transience of all worldly splendor. On the way to St. Peter's, a ceremonialist spoke to him three times the words "Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi" (Holy Father, so passes the glory of the world), burning a bundle of tow. Actually, it is surprising that the Pope needed such moral instruction. After all, looking out the windows of the Vatican Palace, the ruins of ancient Rome reminded him daily of the nothingness of earthly existence. The travellers who visited the Eternal City on a Grand Tour were also equally impressed and touched by the crumbling witnesses of the past. The early 19th-century micromosaic brooch here is probably a souvenir of such a trip, and it shows us the city's most famous field of ruins: the Roman Forum. Once the undisputed center of the Roman Empire, we see a cattle count of its ancient monuments depicted. From the foot of the Capitol Hill, the view goes east. We make out the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, erected in 203 A.D., on the left edge, while the columns of the temples of Saturn and the deified emperor Vespasian rise on the right side. 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 oval mosaic is set in an area of jet black glass. The resulting mosaic is set by an elaborate mount of 8-karat gold. The boar's head mark on the C hook indicates that the brooch was imported into the Netherlands between 1831 and 1855. The mosaic and setting must therefore have been created at this time at the latest; based on the formal language of the framing, we date the piece to the 1840s. 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 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.

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