19th-Century Micromosaic of the Colosseum and Rome Depicting a Grand Tour Scene, Circa 1870


A rare and important micromosaic rectangular plaque, produced in Italy in the third quarter of the 19th century. This one colorfully depicts a Grand Tour scene featuring Europeans strolling about the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome. It is housed in a period gilt floral form frame, is of museum quality, and would make an impressive addition to any fine household or collection.

Last updated on 30 April 2022 3:45 pm


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DETAILS: SIZE: 15-1/4 x 10-1/8 In. (artwork) x 20-3/4 x 15-3/4 In. (framed). CONDITION: Excellent.


The Grand Tour was the traditional travel of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, & was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage.

BACKGROUND: Micromosaics

Micromosaics (or micro mosaics, micro-mosaics) are a special form of mosaic that use unusually small mosaic pieces (tesserae) of glass, or in later Italian pieces an enamel-like material, to make small figurative images. Surviving ancient Roman mosaics include some very finely worked panels using very small tesserae, especially from Pompeii, but only from Byzantine art are there mosaic icons in micromosaic with tesserae as small as the best from the Modern period. Byzantine examples, which are very rare, were religious icons. The best-known shows the Twelve Great Feasts of the Greek Orthodox Church & is in the Bargello in Florence. Another is in Rome & was crucial in developing the iconography of the Man of Sorrows in the West. From the Renaissance they began to be made in Italy, reaching the height of their popularity in the mid 19th century, when Rome was the center of production; there was a Vatican Mosaic Studio from 1576, set up to create mosaic replicas of the altarpieces in St Peter’s Basilica, which were being damaged by the humid conditions of the vast & crowded interior. They were popular purchases by visitors on the Grand Tour, easily portable, & often taken home to set into an object there. Typical scenes were landscapes of Roman views, rarely of any artistic originality, & the micro-mosaics were small panels used to inset into furniture or onto snuffboxes & similar objects, or for jewelry. Religious subjects were copied from paintings. The very smallest mosaic pieces come from works from the period between the late 18th century & the end of the 19th. Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794-1865) expanded the range of subjects in his work in the ‘archaeological style’, copying Roman & Early Christian wall-mosaics. It was even imitated by porcelain painters, who painted faint lines across their work to suggest the edges of tesserae. 19Th Century Micromosaic Plaque Colosseum Rome Grand Tour Circa 1870 Europe Ancient Italy Roman Empire

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