Micromosaic is a special form of mosaic that is created through a laborious process performed by talented craftsmen using many tiny pieces (tesserae) of opaque vitreous glass in a multitude of colours to make small images. The inspiration for the practice can be traced back to the renewed interest in large-scale Early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, which had started to attract amateur archaeologists and antiquarian scholars in the late eighteenth century. Micromosaic jewellery reached the height of popularity in the 1840s-1870s when small, vivid images of religious subjects, ancient Roman ruins, animals, and flowers were inset into imposing gold-mounted necklaces, bracelets, and brooches.
Among the great practitioners of the art were the Italian Castellani family (Fortunato Castellani and his sons Alessandro and Augusto), whose opulent and expensive jewels were prized as souvenirs by wealthy ‘grand tourists’. The English-speaking community in Rome were also avid collectors, with the firm catering to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry James and other celebrated expatriate clients. The passion for micromosaic jewellery was not just limited to Italy – pieces were exported to England, Germany, Russia, and France, and inspired versions were created by the great, London-based jewellers Carlo Giuliano and Robert Phillips.
Today, opulent and striking examples of micromosaic jewellery are much prized and sought-after by collectors, especially in the form of demi-parure matched sets.
I am please to have discovered in Brisbane a locally sourced micromasaic plaque being offered in our Decorative Arts sale in August.
TROY MCKENZIE / Queensland Representative Specialist