Splendida et Minuta, Fashionable Roman Micromosaic Jewels

A Grand tour around the XVIII and XIX century production, from the origins in Rome to the Napoleonic court and the archaeological revival.

In the late XVIII century the ancient large-scale architectural mosaics were brought down, in Rome, from the churches ceilings to the decorative arts that enchanted the imperial Napoleonic court and the Grand Tourists who crowded the Urbe. Miniature mosaics or ‘micromosaics’ alongside with gemstones, coral, miniature portraits and cameos, were included in the spectacular production of jewels for the imperial court. One of the main suppliers of mosaics for the Napoleonic entourage was the celebrated mosaic master and lapidary Giacomo Raffaelli (1753-1836). He was responsible for the creation of a fashionable trend that lasted throughout the nineteenth century.
After the first exhibition of micromosaic objets de vertu in the Raffaelli Studio in Rome, in 1775, this genre became an obsession: no fop English gentleman could avoid flaunting a precious snuffbox with a micromosaic lid and no fashionable lady could give up a jewel with a butterfly or a Roman mosaic view resulting from the brilliant imagination of Raffaelli.
The success of this new way to apply mosaic stimulated a vast commercial production that involved the many virtuous artists who practiced this unique technique in their studios scattered around the Spanish Steps in Rome.
When, forward in the nineteenth century, the path of the mosaic jewel seemed to turn towards an irreversible repetition, the Castellani firm renewed the iconographic repertoire of micromosaic and brought it back to the fore through their intriguing production of archaelogical revival jewelry.
The presentation will involve the public in this fascinating season of the typically Roman jewelry style through a rich documentation of painted portraits and extraordinary pieces belonging to the major public and private collections.