Mosaics, Rosalinde, Arthur, Gilbert, Collection
Table with ‘Beautiful Sky of Italy’. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.894:1, 2-2008
Table with 'Beautiful Sky of Italy'
Michelangelo Barberi (1787-1867)
Glass micromosaic and gilded bronze
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.894:1, 2-2008
This tabletop, made for Francis Needham, Earl of Kilmorey (1787-1880), closely resembles one made for Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55) depicting sites he visited on a tour of Italy. It may have been commissioned in a similar spirit, in order to commemorate an Italian trip including visits to popular monuments. The image in the centre of this table, which Barberi later described as a 'vast field of translucent air' won a Council Medal (the highest honour awarded) at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
Micromosaics depicting popular attractions became a sought after and convenient souvenir for the Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Mosaic, which originally flourished during the Classical period, was an ideal medium in which to depict the ruins of Classical Italy. The mosaics were also often small enough to be affordable and easily portable, yet still amply demonstrated the highly prized skill and virtuosity of mosaic.
Mosaic cabinet and clock. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.74:1, 2-2008
Mosaic cabinet and clock
Pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), ebony, gilded bronze, brass, mother-of-pearl and ebonised wood
Cabinet: Italy, Florence; upper section Grand Ducal Workshops, Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725)
Clock: Germany, Bonn; Johannes Hittorff (1757-1836)
Upper section and central panel below: 1700-5. Lower section: 1700-1800
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.74:1, 2-2008
Foggini made this clock cabinet for Anna-Maria Luisa de' Medici (1667-1743), who had a large collection of pietre dure. Great skill was needed to make these hardstone mosaics, and the representation of pearls in particular was a demonstration of the craftsman's knowledge of the materials he worked with and the techniques he used.
The top half and central mosaic below predate the cabinet's enlargement, probably in the late 17th century. Hittorff's clock movement has replaced an earlier English movement by Ignatius Huggeford. The central panel in the base, added at the same time as the new clock movement, may originally have been intended to form part of a tray. It would appear that the panel was meant to be viewed horizontally, so that it would look like the pearls are lying on a flat surface, rather than as they are now.
Click here to watch a pietre dure panel being made
'Return from the Market’. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.75:1, 2-2008
'Return from the Market'
White and grey marble, onyx, gabbro and albarese limestone with gilded wood frame
Mario Montelatici (1894-1974)
Arte del Mosaico workshop, Florence, Italy
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.75:1, 2-2008
This work was part of a commission by the American heiress and art patron Marjorie Merriweather Post, and is one of Mario Montelatici's most impressive works. The subject is derived from a painting by Stefano Bruzzi (1835-1911) that received a prize in the 1888 Parma Exhibition.
Montelatici had great skill in exploiting Tuscan marbles and hardstones, using the naturally occurring variations in colour and tone to reflect the movement and mood of the scene. The success of the picture was dependent on the colours of the stones. Finding the right stones could involve a long, and often expensive, search even before any stones were purchased. The grey bardiglio marble has white veins that realistically evoke the stormy skies, and white carrara marble has been used to depict the snow on the street. The resulting mosaic is made using finely cut stones, which are carefully fitted together to give detail to the figures and create the effects of light and shadow.
Tigress, Venice, Italy. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.170:1, 2-2008
Glass micromosaic with gilded wood frame
Decio Podio (born about 1860)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.170:1, 2-2008
In 1762 George Spencer, fourth Duke of Marlborough, received a tigress for his menagerie at Blenheim as a gift from Lord Clive, Governor of Bengal. The Duke commissioned the English painter George Stubbs (1724-1806), well known for his paintings of horses, to paint a tigress. This painting was published as an engraving by John Dixon in 1772, which in turn inspired this micromosaic. The micromosaic displays great naturalism, with subtle details such as the small rounded head, short nose and lack of ruff indicating this is a female tiger.
Panoramic view of Rome from the Janiculum Hill. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.893:1, 2-2008
Panoramic view of Rome from the Janiculum Hill
Antonio Testa (born 1785), after an etching of 1756 by Giuseppe Vasi (1710-82)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.893:1, 2-2008
Reputed to have taken Antonio Testa 20 years to complete, this extraordinarily accurate depiction of Rome is taken from an etching of 1765 by Giuseppe Vasi, which was executed as part of a project to record all of the ancient and modern monuments of Rome. St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican can be seen on the right of the panorama, and the Corsini Palace and gardens in the centre foreground. In the left foreground there is also a wolf suckling Romulus and Remus (the legendary founders of Rome), with figures in folk costume and ancient artefacts scattered across the foreground
Specimen block with butterfly mosaics. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.109:1, 2-2008
Specimen block with butterfly mosaics
probably Giacomo Raffaelli (1753-1836)
Glass micromosaic, malachite, lapis lazuli, marble and gilded bronze
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.109:1, 2-2008
This hardstone block was made to display a group of early micromosaics. It is unusual to find malachite used outside Russia, its country of origin, before the early 19th century. The Russian nobility, however, were avid collectors of micromosaics, and it may be that a Russian collector commissioned this piece or took the mosaic plaques back to Russia to be mounted in the malachite. You can still see many micromosaic tabletops and plaques by Giacomo Raffaelli in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Micromosaics were first made by Raffaelli in Rome in 1775, and he was even asked by the Tsar to found a Russian school of mosaics, though he declined to do this.
Butterflies are a recurring motif in Raffaelli's work, and in this case may derive from Greek and Roman mythology, in which the butterfly symbolised the soul leaving the body at the moment of death. It is also significant in Christian art, as the lifecycle of the butterfly from caterpillar to chrysalis to insect represents life, death and resurrection.