The tiny artform you may not have heard of

We’ve covered mosaics aplenty here at Tile Addict, but none were quite as small as this. Micromosaics are a minute form of their more common older sister, often decorating elaborate pieces of jewellery and enjoyed only by those that can get close enough to see them.

The Doves of Pliny (est. 1800) (approx. 4cm)

The earliest, finest, and best surviving examples of historic micromosaics come from the Late Byzantine period (roughly 1300 to 1453) which predominantly depict religious figures and scenes such as the Twelve Great Feasts of the Greek Orthodox Church. A few hundred years later mosaicist Giacomo Raffaelli became one of the first to incorporate micromosaics into jewellery and crafted works akin to paintings, unlike his contemporaries whose subjects were most frequently Roman landmarks.

The Last Supper by Giacamo Raffaelli

Raffaelli hosted a micromosaics exhibition, founded a School of Mosaics in Milan, and undertook a commission to recreate The Last Supper for Napoleon I (a feat that took over 8 years to complete and was not finished until after Napoleon had adbicated the throne), all of which earnt him a place in art history.

Bust of Socrates set in snuffbox (1800)
Etruscan Amphora set in ring (1800)

A few other micromosaic artist’s names have been preserved in the collections of Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert (currently on loan to the V&A) and jewellery designer Elizabeth Locke with pieces set in brooches, snuff boxes, tables, and frames.

Leopard by Antoni Aguatti (1800-1840)
Contemporary micromosaic from Vamguard (designed by Maurizio Fioravanti)

Read more about the history of micromosaics here.
Check out the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collections at the V&A here.

A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, August 2022.

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