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Plaque - The Capitoline Doves
  • The Capitoline Doves
    Raffaelli, Giacomo, born 1753 - died 1836
  • Enlarge image

The Capitoline Doves

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Rome, Italy (made)

  • Date:

    1801 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Raffaelli, Giacomo, born 1753 - died 1836 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Micromosaic and gold frame

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.194:1, 2-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver & Mosaics, room 72, case 6

These doves, known as the Capitoline Doves or Doves of Pliny, appear frequently as the subject of micromosaics. The image comes from a Roman floor mosaic discovered in 1737 at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, which in turn is believed to be a copy of a lost ancient Greek mosaic at Pergamon. The original is described by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, completed in 77AD.

The term 'micromosaic' is used to describe mosaics made of the smallest glass pieces. Some micromosaics contain more than 5000 pieces per square inch. The earliest attempts at micromosaic revealed visible joins between the pieces (known as tesserae) and a lack of perspective. Later artists such as Antonio Aguatti made huge advances in micromosaic technique, resulting in renderings that were truer to life. Glass micromosaic technique developed in the 18th century, in the Vatican Mosaic Workshop in Rome, where they still undertake restoration work today.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

[plaque] Circular plaque with a central image of four doves, the Capitoline Doves or Doves of Pliny, seated on the edge of a two-handled gold basin of water which rests on a square plinth on a flat surface below a black background. Signed on the reverse by the artist and surrounded by a round gold frame.

Place of Origin

Rome, Italy (made)


1801 (made)


Raffaelli, Giacomo, born 1753 - died 1836 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Micromosaic and gold frame

Marks and inscriptions

[plaque] Signed on the reverse 'Giacomo Raffaelli feci in Roma 1801'.


Diameter: 7 cm

Object history note

Provenance: J. Kugel, Paris, 1974.
[plaque] Historical significance: In 1737 a rectangular antique mosaic depicting four doves seated on a basin was discovered at Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli. Pliny the Elder had described just such a mosaic of doves in his encyclopedia and the newly discovered mosaic became known as Pliny's Doves or the Doves of Pliny. In 1764 the mosaic was transferred to the Capitoline Museum and became known as The Capitoline Doves.

Historical context note

[plaque] Raffaelli's earliest sgined and dated work is a 1779 version of the Doves of Pliny now in the British Museum. When Raffaelli was given a Polish title and made Counsellor for the Liberal Arts by Stanislas II, the last king of Poland who reigned from 1764 to 1795, Raffaelli sent the king a snuffbox with Pliny's Doves. Another version belonged to Napoleon's brother Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840) Prince of Canino.

Descriptive line

Circular miniature micromosaic depicting the Capitoline Doves, Rome. Giacamo Raffaelli, 1801.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilson, J. 'Collecting Mosaics Piece by Piece'. Realities, 1980, no. 11.
Gonzalez-Palacios, Alvar and Steffi Röttgen with essays by Steffi Röttgen, Claudia Przyborowski; essays and new catalogue material translated by Alla Theodora Hall. The Art of Mosaics: Selections from the Gilbert Collection. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1982. 224 p., ill. Cat. no. 28. ISBN 0875871097
Fields, Mary Durland. 'The Phantom Art of Micromosaics'. Miniature Collector, October 1983, no. 39, ill. p. 47.
Ravel, Emilio. 'The Traditional Art of Mosaics'. Ulisse 2000, October/November 1986, Anno VI, no. 23, p. 105.
Gabriel, Jeanette Hanisee with contributions by Anna Maria Massinelli and essays by Judy Rudoe and Massimo Alfieri. Micromosaics: The Gilbert Collection. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with The Gilbert Collection, 2000. 310 p., ill. Cat. no. 11, p. 63-64. ISBN 0856675113.

Exhibition History

The Art of Mosaics and Monumental Silver (V&A 01/01/1975-31/12/1979)
The Art of Mosaics and Monumental Silver (V&A 01/01/1975-31/12/1979)
The Art of Mosaics and Monumental Silver (V&A 01/01/1975-31/12/1979)
The Art of Mosaics and Monumental Silver (V&A 01/01/1975-31/12/1979)
The Art of Mosaics and Monumental Silver (V&A 01/01/1975-31/12/1979)

Labels and date

Plaque with Capitoline Doves

Rome, Italy; signed and dated by Giacomo Raffaelli (1753–1836)
Glass micromosaic
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.194:1-2008 [2009]


Gold; Mosaic glass


Micromosaic; Framing

Subjects depicted



Metalwork; Plaques & Plaquettes

Collection code


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