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circular micromosaic plaque depicting a colourful butterfly on a white ground, within a red, white and black tesserae border, signed on the reverse 'Giacomo Raffaelli / Fece / Roma 1787'
2¾ in. (66 mm.) diam.

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Paul Gallois
Paul Gallois

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Lot Essay

Raffaelli was Roman by birth and achieved notable success early in his career. By 1775 he was already well known as a skilled micromosaicist, creating complex compositions using tiny tesserae made from spun enamel of exceptional finesse, a technical innovation made possible through the work of the chemist Alessio Mattioli. He was extensively patronised by Pope Pius XV (d. 1799), and worked in both the Vatican workshops as well as from his own studio in the Piazza di Spagna. Raffaelli was also a successful dealer in high quality works of art - not all of which were made by him. His work often depicted butterflies, an insect which had in Roman times symbolised the belief that the soul leaves the body through the mouth at the time of death and so subsequently represented rebirth. A bonbonnière by Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808) in The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, is set with micromosaic panels of a dog on the cover and a butterfly on the base. The style of these mosaics, especially the butterfly on the base of the bonbonnière, bear close relation to the mosaics of Giacomo Raffaelli and his studio. For another butterfly micromosaic by Giacomo Raffaelli see D. Petochi, I mosaici minuti Romani, Florence, 1981, p. 111, pl. 33. For another micromosaic by Raffaelli see lot 107.

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