Monumental in size and masterful in its execution, this extraordinary micromosaic shows an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the Roman Forum. Comprised of hundreds of thousands of tiny fired colored glass tiles, or tesserae, each piece was perfectly matched for color and size, and was painstakingly placed to create the perfect trompe-l’oeil effect. The precision and detail required to execute such a piece, along with the high cost of materials, make micromosaics of this immense size and artistry an absolute rarity.
The exceptional work was almost certainly crafted by master mosaicist Domenico Moglia (c. 1780 – c. 1862), a celebrated Italian craftsman and designer active in Rome in the mid-19th century and, due to his immense skill, is highly likely to have worked in the renowned Vatican workshops. The extraordinary proficiency of Moglia is immediately evident in the breathtaking detail of the scene. The three columns to the left are those of the Temple of Vespasian, while behind them the Arch of Septimius Severus can be seen. The Temple of Saturn looms at the mosaic’s center, with the foundations of the Basilica Julia to its right, the Temple of Castor and Pollux beyond and the Colosseum in the far distance.
An ancient city center, the Roman Forum became a must-see for European tourists making their Grand Tour in the 19th century. The present piece not only captures the glories of this ancient site, but also these Grand Tour visitors wandering amongst the ruins.
Micromosaics were incredibly desirable art works at the International Exhibitions. In fact, the catalog of the Great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 list Moglia exhibiting, quite possibly, this very micromosaic of the Roman Forum, signifying the importance of this masterpiece in the artists oeuvre. Similar micromosaics by Moglia depicting the Roman Forum and several others are currently in the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection of Micromosaics and on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
An incredibly popular medium in its day, mosaics were widely produced in 19th-century Rome, with as many as 100 mosaicists actively producing small plaques, miniatures and cameos for the tourist trade. The best workshops, however, produced micromosaics such as the present example which were on a far grander scale, with Moglia’s atelier certainly among them. Yet, such monumental and costly examples as this were a rarity, and were often bought as souvenirs by visiting aristocrats, commissioned by monarchs and displayed at the great International Exhibitions.
46 1/4” high x 73 5/8” wide