A good late 18th century 'Grand Tour' micro mosaic Medallion depicting a finch by Giacomo Raffaelli,
Lot 93
A good late 18th century 'Grand Tour' micro mosaic Medallion depicting a finch by Giacomo Raffaelli, dated 1788,
Sold for £3,360 (US$ 5,647) inc. premium
Lot Details
A good late 18th century 'Grand Tour' micro mosaic Medallion depicting a finch
by Giacomo Raffaelli, dated 1788,
the bird seated on a branch on a rocky outcrop within a cell border, the copper backplate inscribed Giacomo Raffaelli, Fece, Roma 1788, later mounted as a brooch, 5.8cm deep, 2" deep, 5.8cm (2") diameter.


  • Literature: See Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel, The Gilbet Collection, Micromosaics, Philip Wilson Publishers, p.14 and p.288-9.

    Giacomo Raffaelli was born in 1753 and died in 1836. Celebrated as a one of the best artists working in hardstones and mosaics in his day, he is credited as being the inventor of micro-mosaics. Although originally thought to have been a member of a family who supplied smalti at the Vatican Mosaic workshop but had risen in statue and importance by 1775 to give his first exhibition of works in Rome in that year.
    Raffaelli was awarded the title Councillor of Liberal Arts by Stanislaus II Augustus, King of Poland in 1787. Later in 1804 he was elected director of the Milan mosaics workshop, founded the year before on Napoleon's orders by Eugene Beauharnais, at the request of the Alpine Republic (later renamed the Italian Monarchy from 1805). He returned to Rome from Milan somewhere between 1817 and 1820 when he was named Counsellor the Emperor of Russia. He died in 1836 at his house at 92 via Babuino and was buried in the church of St. Stanialas of the Poles in Rome.
    Many of the major European galleries, museums and collections house works by Raffaelli in their permanent collections. These include a snuffbox dated 1780 mounted by the Dresden Court Jeweller Johann Christian Neuber in the Gilbert Collection, London, a tabletop at Syon House, London bearing Raffaelli's Rome address, a lifesize version of Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' based on a copy by Giuseppe Bossi of 1808-9 in the Church of the Minorites, Vienna and a portrait of the Bishop of Poland, Michael Poniatowski after a painting by Marcello Bacciarelli in Warsaw Cathedral. A pair of tabletops by Raffaelli and Giuseppi Leonardi (Roman, fl. 1781-1811)originally from Burton Constable, and possibly by acquired by Clifford Constable on his honeymoon in 1827 are now in the collection of Temple Newsam, Leeds.
    Of particularly note are five comparable works at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, which along with other larger pieces were acquired after Raffaelli's death. These include a miniature plaque depicting a bird and a mouse dating from the late 18th century and four small micromosaic plaques comprising one mounted as a snuffbox depicting Tivoli, signed and dated 1800, a rabbit, signed and dated 1796, 'Pliny's Doves' and a fox and pheasant, both dating from the early 19th century.

    Raffaelli developed his micromosaic technique during a period of great change within the Vatican mosaic workshops. At this time the workers began taking on private commissions which led to a number of them starting their own workshops to sell to transportable miniature plaques to dealers and tourists using tiny tesserae. This new technique enabled the makers to create finely executed works which simulated brushstrokes creating perspective, shadow and movement including hitherto unavailable details such as the texture of an animals fur and the bloom on a flower. Although the unusual plaque depicting a finch dated 1788 is perhaps not as fine and realistic in detail as his later early 19th century examples, it nevertheless illustrates the prowess of the his artist and technical talent even before it reached its technical zenith.