Byzantium revisted

This is an outstanding revival jewel by the great master of the genre in the 19th century, Castellani, dating from the 1890s.

Micromosaic brooch with griffin, Castellani, in gold and glass tesserae

With its simple outline and bold chromatic scheme, this is one of Castellani’s most powerful and intriguing jewels, and one of our personal favourites.

Although this brooch is realised in micromosaic, it reminds us of gold and cloisonné enamel Byzantine medallions depicting religious subjects. In fact, the source of inspiration here is a Byzantine brooch of the 8th or 9th century AD now in the Louvre Museum, decorated with an enamelled mythological beast at the centre of a gold disk. Generally faithful to the originals, in this case Castellani substitutes the subtle hues of the enamel work with a brightly coloured micromosaic decoration.

Cloisonné medallion with griffin, Byzantine, 8-9th centuries AD, in gold and cloisonné enamel | Campana Collection, Louvre Museum, Paris

These Byzantine gold and cloisonné medallion of Christ, the Virgin and St Peter dating from around 1100AD are from a group of twelve that once surrounded an icon of the archangel Gabriel | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Castellani played an important role in raising the level of the art of the mosaic above the repetitive banality and coarseness of contemporary production which concentrated almost exclusively on Vedute di Roma for tourist consumption. Predominantly inspired by early Christian examples from Ravenna and Rome, Castellani’s micromosaics were made under the guidance of Luigi Podio who presided over the mosaic workshop between 1851 and 1888 and guaranteed a consistently outstanding quality of production.