November 29, 2022: Micro-mosaics in the Papal Artifacts Collection

November 29, 2022: Micro-mosaics in the Papal Artifacts Collection

Pope Pius IX: Micro-mosaic Scene of St. Peter's Basilica
Pope Pius IX: Micro-mosaic Scene of St. Peter's Basilica, Second Image

Pope Pius IX: A Micro-mosaic Scene of St. Peter’s Basilica

Micro-mosaics are intricate portraitures  in miniature which the artist is capable of creating using  unusually small mosaic pieces (tesserae) of glass, or in later Italian pieces an enamel-like material, to make small figurative images or scenes.  

Surviving ancient Roman mosaics include some very finely worked panels using very small tesserae, especially from Pompeii, but only from Byzantine art are there mosaic icons in micro-mosaic with tesserae as small as the best from the Modern period.

The plaque featured here is approximately 7″ X 5″ and is a scene of Saint Peter’s Basilica created sometime during the reign of Blessed Pius IX (1846 – 1878).  Black stone borders the scene, which depicts not only the Basilica itself, but also the piazza in front of it, known as Saint Peter’s Square. 

It is a great piece of art and a marvelous addition to the Collection.

Standing Crucifix With Micro MosaicsStanding Crucifix With Micro Mosaics

Standing Crucifix With Micro Mosaics
Pope Pius XII

A one-foot high standing crucifix with micro mosaics.

Micro mosaics are very small mosaics made of glass or stone. In this crucifix they are actually miniature mosaics of the four major Basillicas in Rome: St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls.

A Micro-mosaic Broach  with Close-up of the Maker’s Mark of the Vatican
Reign of Pope Pius VII
(No longer part of the Collection)

The Maker’s Mark Symbol & Its Significance at the Time of Pope Pius VII

Every metal worker, jeweler, and medal maker or silversmith add maker’s marks to the items they create. This practice also allows us to identify the time period in which the item was created.

This broach indicates it was made between 1814-1870 because it has a maker’s mark of the cross keys and tiara–a very, very tiny mark in this piece of metal. This was just to show it was made in service to the Holy Father.  In the case of this broach, it was added to that very tiny space indicated in the photo. 

Beginning in 1814 fine metal artists in the Papal States used this particular maker’s mark. Napoleon Bonaparte had released Pius VII from custody after nearly four years. Jubilation was so great in Rome upon his release that the artists started putting this maker’s mark of cross keys and tiara on their works in honor of the Holy Father’s safety. That practice continued until 1870 when the Papal States were taken over by United Italy.

  • Date November 29, 2022
  • Tags Blessed Pius IX, Souvenirs