I was watching a television program called the Antiques Roadshow with my mom and little bro’ yesterday evening when an object came up that was decorated with an art form that I personally had never heard of before – micromosaic (also written as “micro mosaic” and “micro-mosaic”). The object in question was something like a small jewelry box with a micromosaic picture on the front. The expert said that this little box was worth about 10,000 UK pounds (eeekkk!)
As I say, I’d never heard about this art form before, so I just took a quick stroll around the Internet to discover that...
…Micromosaics are a special form of mosaic that are created using tiny mosaic pieces (tesserae) of glass or an enamel-like material. The best work can achieve 3,000 to 5,000 tesserae per square inch and are so detailed that it’s difficult to tell that you aren’t looking at a fine painting. As I’ve now discovered, this art form started way back in the mists of time…
Saint Peter's Basilica, which was constructed between 1506 and 1626 AD within the Vatican City, has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. Soon after the Basilica’s completion a problem began to arise – the church is so vast that clouds formed in its interior, and the resulting dampness started to cause the decay of the original altar paintings by famous artists.
A desperate search began for a lasting material and technique with which to reproduce the paintings – the result was to create mosaics using tiny tesserae formed from a glass-like material. Since traditional glass mosaics were shiny, it was necessary to find a material whose surface was non-reflective and had the appearance of painting. The result was an opaque substance which was neither shiny nor brittle like former glass mosaics. While the exact formula has been kept a secret for hundreds of years, the Vatican calls the substance “enamel”.
Over a period of many years, 28,000 different shades of tesserae were created. By 1770, most of the altar paintings by the great masters had been successfully reproduced in mosaic. To this day, most visitors to Saint Peter’s do not realize they are looking at mosaics and not paintings.
Later, commercial micromosaics became available in a vast range of sizes and quality, ranging from inexpensive mementos such as pill boxes and paperweights to elaborate and costly tabletops, pictures, and jewelry.
Micromosaic of Rome by Cesare Roccheggiani
I simply cannot imagine how long it takes to create even a small micromosaic. I also cannot fathom just how these little beauties are created. It must take so long to cover even a small area that you cannot apply a layer of glue first because it would dry out. And even if you decided to use incredibly fine tweezers and to individually dip each tiny bead in glue and apply it to the substrate … wouldn’t your pot of glue dry out fairly quickly?
I did look for “micromosaic” on YouTube in the hope of discovering some "How To" type videos, but most of what I saw involved modern artists creating jewelry like broaches using pieces of glass that were much larger than the ones in the classical micromosaic representations.
Hmmm, something else to ponder…
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