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Bonbonniere

Bonbonniere

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    1825 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tortoiseshell box set with micromosaic in a brass frame

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.490:1-2008

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This picture of a landscape when turned sideways depicts a man's face in profile. Compositions that included both natural forms and human characteristics are called anthropomorphic landscapes. Although such scenes can be found in almost every other visual medium, this example, executed in micromosaic, is unique.

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 and original 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.
On long-term loan to Los Angeles County Museum from 2010.

Physical description

Round tortoiseshell box, the cover set with a circular mosaic depicting a large rocky mountain supporting wispy foliage, two figures on a road in the foreground and on the right a smaller mountain with structures on top of it. When turned 45 degrees anti-clockwise, the image appears as a man's face, the foliage forming his hair and eyebrows. Around the border of this image is a French inscription in mosaic.

Place of Origin

Rome (made)

Date

1825 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tortoiseshell box set with micromosaic in a brass frame

Marks and inscriptions

'LE TEMPS, QUI DETRUIT TOUT DONNE A TOUT L'EXISTENCE, DES DEBRIS QUE TU VOIS J'AI RECU LA NAISSANCE
Time, which destroys all, gives life to all; from the ruins you see I came into being.
Inscribed around the rim

Dimensions

Diameter: 8.3 cm, Height: 2.2 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Ivano Constantini, Rome, 1975.

Historical significance: The subject may have been inspired by the work of engravers Wenzel Hollar (1607-77) and Joseph Friedrich Leopold (1628-1726).

Historical context note

Compositions of natural forms with human characteristics are known as anthropomorphic landscapes. This is apparently the only example recorded in micromosaic.

Descriptive line

Round tortoiseshell box, the cover set with a circular mosaic depicting a large rocky mountain supporting wispy foliage, two figures on a road in the foreground and on the right a smaller mountain with structures on top of it. When turned 45 degrees anti-clockwise, the image appears as a man's face, the foliage forming his hair and eyebrows. Around the border of this image is a French inscription in mosaic.

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

Gonzalez-Palacios, Alvar. The Art of Mosaics: Selections from the Gilbert Collection. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977. 143 p., ill. Cat. no. 57. ISBN: 0875870805
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. Cat. no. 61.
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. 142, p. 211. ISBN 0856675113.
Williams, Elizabeth A. The Gilbert Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), 2010, fig. 40, p. 72. ISBN 9780875872100

Labels and date

Bonbonnière with landscape containing a man’s face
About 1825

Rome, Italy
Glass micromosaic and tortoiseshell
Inscribed in French ‘Time, which destroys all, gives existence to all; from the ruins which you see, I came into being’
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.490:1, 2-2008 [2009]

Materials

Tortoise shell; Mosaic glass; Brass

Techniques

Forming; Micromosaic; Gilding; Framing

Categories

Containers

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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