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.