A 19th century Roman micromosaic paperweight depicting Pliny's Doves
with four doves around a gilt bowl, inlaid into a piece of shaped and waisted slate, 11cm wide
The present composition gained its title from Pliny's 'Natural History' (bk 36, chapter 184) where he described 'a dove, greatly admired, in the act of drinking, the shadow of its head reflected in the water, while other doves are sunning and grooming themselves on the edge of the bowl'.
The original mosaic Pliny admired has never been discovered, although in 1737 Cardial Guiseppe Furietti discovered a fragment of mosaic at the Villa Adriana in Tivoli matching that description; scholars now believe it to be a later copy made for the Emperor Hadrian. That the original was of this form there is little doubt, and micromosaics of this design have been reproduced for centuries. A paperweight depicting Pliny's Doves is illustrated in R. Grieco Micromosaici Romani,Gangemi Editore, Rome, page 128.