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Picture

Picture

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    1899 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Moglia, Augusto (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Micromosaic with slate surround on metal, and wooden frame

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.122:1-2008

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This picture is an example of a mosaic within a mosaic. Augusto Moglia was involved in the restoration of some of the mosaics in Saint Peter during his time at the Vatican Workshop. The large wall mosaics in Saint Peter's basilica were created using the traditional technique for glass mosaics. In this picture they have been reproduced using the smalti filati technique.

The mosaic shows the interior of Saint Peter at the end of the 19th century. The picture's viewpoint is set next to one of the crossing pillars of the basilica overlooking Gianlorenzo Bernini's baldacchino and the bronze figure of Saint Peter by Arnolfo di Camobio. This viewpoint is comparable to that of another mosaic in the Gilbert Collection that was created on commission of Pope Leo XIII. While this second work depicts an extremely busy Saint Peter's with people attending the Pope's blessing, Moglias's interior depicts a much quieter moment with only a very few figures interspersed against the large architectural backdrop.

The work is signed A. Moglia 1899 in black tesserae on the lower right on the crossing pillar's plinth. The work is identified as a product of the Vatican Workshop with the letters R.F.S.P. for Reverenda Fabbrica Sancti Pietri next to the signature in red tesserae. In its present condition however, the mosaic remains a bit of a mystery: steel as backing material is rather unusual, as is the absence of a paper label of the Vatican workshop that one would expect to find on a work from this period . Nonetheless the signature on the mosaic leaves no doubt that the piece was made for this institution. Another unexpected find is that part of the backing in the left-hand corner of the mosaic has been replaced, and upon closer inspection, spots with slight differences in the colours of the tesserae can be detected in this area. Such anomalies could be evidence of a restoration of the mosaic - this in turn would explain the absence of a Vatican Workshop label.

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

Rectangular micromosaic depicting the interior of St. Peter's Basilica, showing the area below the dome. In the centre foreground the architectural baldachin over the main altar is visible. On the right a boy and a woman with an infant stand before the seated bronze statue of Saint Peter; mosaic with slate frame set on metal backing, in 20th century giltwood frame

Place of Origin

Rome (made)

Date

1899 (made)

Artist/maker

Moglia, Augusto (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Micromosaic with slate surround on metal, and wooden frame

Marks and inscriptions

A. Moglia / 1899
signed in black lower right

R.F.S.P.
Reverend Fabbrica of Saint Peter's
signed in red lower right

Object history note

Provenance: Christie's, London, lot 74, 10/05/1990.

Historical context note

Micromosaics have their roots in the larger mosaics of ancient Rome used to decorate their walls and floors. The first micromosaics were created in the 18th century, but it was not until Arthur Gilbert himself became interested in collecting them and invented the term 'micromosaics' that they became known as such. The tesserae are minute pieces cut from thin pieces of glass known as smalti filati, and some of the finest micomosaics can consist of as many as 5,000 tesserae per square inch (ca. 3 by 3cm). By the late 18th century Rome had become central to the production of micromosaics and sold them as souvenirs to wealthy foreigners visiting the city. From small elegant snuffboxes to large monumental tabletops, micromosaics could be used to decorate objects of all shapes and sizes. They could even be made to resemble full-sized canvas paintings, and indeed Arthur Gilbert himself mistook his very first micromosaic for a painting. When he brought it home to show his wife, he had to convince her that it was not in fact a cracked painting, as she supposed, but a mosaic.

Descriptive line

Interior of St Peter's Basilica. Micromosaic, Rome. Augusto Moglia, 1899.

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

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. 67, p. 126. ISBN 0856675113.

Production Note

Vatican Mosiac Workshop, Rome

Materials

Mosaic glass; Wood; Slate; Metal

Techniques

Micromosaic; Framing

Subjects depicted

Interior views; Catholicism

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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