Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

  • Bonbonnière
    Raffaelli, Giacomo, born 1753 - died 1836
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Rome (mosaic, made)

  • Date:

    1800-1810 (made)
    1850-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Purpurine glass, painted wood, glass micromosaic and gold.

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.471:1, 2-2008

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This box, in its current configuration is evidence of the continued appreciation for micromosaics created in Rome when mosaics of this type were first developed around 1800. The mosaic plaque was probably created during the first decade of the 19th century, using a design by a painter like Wenceslaus Peter who specialised in this type of subject when he lived in Rome from 1774- 1829. The size of the circular plaque as well as the colours and technique of mosaic are close to works mosaics by Giacomo Raffaelli, even though no signature can be seen on this piece.

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.

The mosaic is currently set in a circular glass lid, made of purpurin glass: this blood-red glass was known in Roman antiquity as haematinum, derived from Greek haimátinos ("of blood"), but its exact composition was only rediscovered in the mid 19th-century. Among others, chemist Max Joseph von Pettenkofer was challenged to identify the correct composition by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who aimed to emulate antiquity in his ambitious art commissions. Pettenkofer reported success in 1853, several years after the king's abdication in 1848. The process was soon used by glass makers across Europe.

This means that the mosaic predates its setting by about fifty years, the very period when micromosaics evolved from an avantgarde art form to a defining technique which continued to attract patronage from the highest places. The base of the box in contrast is made in painted wood which closely matches the glass top, and appears to be a fairly recent replacement.

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

A circular red box, the cover set with a gold framed mosaic depicting a hawk on a rock with out-spread wings, its talons clutching the back of a dead cockerel. The cover of the box is made of purpurine glass, while the base is made of wood painted red.

Place of Origin

Rome (mosaic, made)


1800-1810 (made)
1850-1900 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Purpurine glass, painted wood, glass micromosaic and gold.


Diameter: 8.1 cm, Height: 3.5 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Hancocks of London.

Historical significance: This mosaic bonbonnière is attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli who became one of the most celebrated artists in the fields of mosaics and hardstones and is credited with the invention of micromosaics in 1775. By 1780 he was supplying the Dresden Court Jeweller, Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808) with micromosaics for gold snuffboxes.

Historical context note

Mosaic subjects depciting predators and their prey were popular and mainly derived from the work of Wenceslaus Peter (1742-1829) an animal painter who is recorded as supplying mosaicists with drawings of his work. He decorated the Galleria Borghese with frescos of animals.

Descriptive line

Bonbonnière with hawk devouring a cockerel. Micromosaic, glass, painted wood, gold, probably Giacomo Raffaelli, Rome, 1800-10; the box: lid 1850-1900; the base a comparatively recent wood replacement

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

Truman, Charles.The Gilbert collection of gold boxes, Vol. I. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991, cat. no.143, pp. 412-13. ISBN.0875871623
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.12, p.64. ISBN 0856675113.
Alfieri, Massimo, Maria Grazia Branchetti and Guido Cornini. Mosaici Minuti Romani del 700 et dell'800. Exhibition catalogue. Rome: Edizioni del mosaico, 1986, fig. 60.

Labels and date

1. Bonbonnière with hawk devouring a cockerel, about 1800

Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.471:1, 2-2008 [16/11/2016]
Bonbonnière with eagle devouring a chicken
About 1800

Rome, Italy: probably Giacomo Raffaelli (1753–1836)
Purpurine glass, composition, glass micromosaic and gold
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.471:1, 2-2008 [2009]


Gold; Mosaic glass; Glass; Wood


Setting; Micromosaic

Subjects depicted

Chicken; Rock; Foliage; Eagle


Plaques & Plaquettes; Containers; Personal accessories; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.