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Rectangular tiny mosaic picture an iron box representing the Basilica di San Pietro ( Saint Peter Cathedral) and the frontal square with people, made with a diagonal perspective cut. Box frame, carved an classically gilded whit central engraving.
Decoration of candlesticks with vases, winged victories, griffins and flowers; there are two tile blocks on which is written “S.Pietro” and “In Vaticano”. The mosaic is very detailed and made with a unexpected partial view along with typical shadows games.
The frame has moldings with ovals and oak wreath.

Mosaic Dimensions:25,5 x41 cm;
Frame dimensions: 44,5 x 59,5 cm

Inspect the micromosaic

Historical stylistic analysis

As Alvar Gonzales Palacios wrote, “ the great mosaic activity in the center of Christianity, related to the decoration of San Pietro cathedral , starts during the pontificate of Gregorio XIII”. Giovanni Battista Calandra will be Pope Paolo VI’s mosaicista and will realize the first mosaic placed in San Pietro, San Michele Arcangelo of Cavaleir D’Arpino, Later He will be commissioned by Guido Reni of the making the mosaics of Cappella dell’Annunziata for Cardinal Filomarino of Neaples in 1647: the mosaic pictures were considered more expensive but preferable because eternal.

We could say the in 1727 there was a real workshop for the making of mosaics in Vatican; around those years the chemist Alessio Mattioli invented the formula that allows the making of glazers based on plaster and linseed oil, used to make small tiles; under the directions of Pietro Paolo Cristofari (superintending of Vatican Workshop) that allowed to realize the firsts high quality small mosaic pictures that become one of the usual gifts of popes to important people.
A beautiful example is again published in Il tempio del gusto, signed and dated on the back “Filippo Cocchi 1785”, insert in a splendid gilded bronze frame attributed to Valadler, given to the princess Sofia Albertina of Sweden by Pio VI.

Mosaico Filippo Cocchi 1785
Mosaic signed "Filippo Cocchi 1785"

Another step further in the technique of making will be given, in the second half of the 18th century, by the ability of realizing thin stick melting glazers so they could cut small colored tiles as needed. At the end of the century several are the workshops and the mosaicisti, the most known were Giacomo Raffaelli and Cesare Aguatti.

Since the middle of the 18th century until the end of the 19th century, along with the developing and growing of the Grand Tour and with the slow revival of classical taste, driven by the findings in the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the micromosaics become very popular. Several workshop that made boxes and pictures, frames and counter-tops, were built. These mosaics look back to the ancient world reproducing paintings and mosaics that come to light with the archaeological excavations but also tank to famous paintings or landscapes with roman ruins.

The success of Grand tour brings to Italy researchers and aristocratics from all over Europe that provided to workshops a new willing to spend clientele. In Rome, some workshops of stonemasons, bronzers and mosaicisti were activated to provide pruducts that satisfy the customers’ wishes, often working with them. For a visitor that had just ended th tour of excavations and roman ruins, getting hold of one of these pieces doesn’t represent just the purchasing of a memory, but satisfies their desire of research of beauty and culture, making the buyer a perfectly fashionable illuminists.

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein - Goethe Gran Tour
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein - Goethe in the Roman countryside during his Gran Tour

Beyond workshops spread in Rome, was active the internal production of Vatican. The tiles were lied on a marble surface or on iron boxes and could have bronze or gilded carved wood, the quality of the support depended on the recipient of the gift. A “Veduta di Piazza san Pietro” similar to this one and probably belonging from the same years, is published by Alvar Gonzalez Palacio and is a gift made by Leone XIII to king Alfonso XII for his wedding in 1878 ( today kept at the Royal Place of Aranjuerz). In the reverend warehouse of San Pietro were preserved several representations of the square that could be chosen as gift as testified by inventories.

Veduta di Piazza san Pietro pubblicata da Alvar Gonzalez Palacios
Veduta di Piazza san Pietro published by Alvar Gonzalez Palacios
Reference Bibliography:

Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Il tempio del gusto, ed. Longanesi 1984

Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Pittura per l’eternità, ed. Longanesi 2001

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