A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE
A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE
A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE
A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE
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A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE

BY LUIGI A. GALLANDT, ROME, CIRCA 1875

Details
A LARGE ITALIAN MICROMOSAIC PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETER’S SQUARE
BY LUIGI A. GALLANDT, ROME, CIRCA 1875
Signed ‘L.A. GALLANDT’, in rectangular giltwood frame
35 ¼ x 66 ¼ in. (89.5 x 168 cm.), the panel
44 x 75 ½ in. (112 x 192 cm.), overall
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Meredith Sykes
Meredith Sykes

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Lot Essay

This large and exceptionally detailed micromosaic depicts St. Peter's square with the domed Basilica and Vatican beyond. Ever popular with tourists, the vista was favoured by mosaicists during the nineteenth century but it is rare to find an example of such proportion and detail.

The Pope is visible on the balcony of the Basilica giving the Papal Blessing to the throng of people in the piazza below. Among the numerous people and carriages, standout details include a couple, arm in arm and looking out towards the viewer, a family with two daughters dressed in white, two mounted cavalry officers, and, to the centre, a family standing beside an open carriage. It is interesting to note that other views of St. Peter’s from this time also show the elaborate draped balcony guarded by Caribinari (bottom right). It is possible that this balcony, just outside the jurisdiction of Vatican City, was used by members of the ruling house of Savoy, and the balcony was the closest they were allowed to go to view the blessing.

PIAZZA SAN PIETRO
The monumental basilica of St. Peter’s was begun in 1506 by Bramante, modified in 1547 by Michelangelo, who designed the dome, and completed about 1606 by Maderno. Bernini’s majestic colonnade was added in 1657. The fountains are by Maderno and Bernini, while the central Egyptian obelisk was originally in the Circus of Nero. The scene is also fitting given that mosaic, a traditional medium for pictorial decoration in early Christian churches, was revived at the end of the sixteenth century for the decoration of St. Peter's basilica. The Vatican brought an unknown mosaicist from St. Mark's in Venice to execute mosaics for the domes and chapels of St. Peter's and thus established the Vatican mosaic workshops which remain in operation to this day.

For large scale mosaics, the workshop originally used cubic tesserae, known as smalti, made from ground glass and baked in an oven like enamel. By the 1760s this art had been so perfected that it was possible to produce rods or threads of coloured glass, called smalti filati, thin enough to be cut into the minute tesserae used on the present lot. These tiny individual tesserae in an almost limitless palette of as many as 28,000 colours allowed truly painterly compositions. The painstaking detail required to work micromosaics meant the smallest were set into snuffboxes and jewellery whilst larger tables or plaques were massive undertakings. By the 19th century, the Vatican workshop was producing such superior mosaic-work that it operated at the near exclusion of any other mosaic studio.

CHEVALIER L. GALLANDT
Luigi Gallandt’s studio was located near the Spanish Steps at 7-8 Piazza di Spagna, Rome. Murry’s Handbook to Rome of 1858 illustrates his trade card. He is also mentioned along with other important mosaicists in the Guida Monaci of 1874. An advertisement in the Guida Monaci of 1881 states, ‘Manufacture of Mosaics, founded in 1850 by Chevelier L. Gallandt. Foreign gentlemen are entreated to honour this establishment with their visit. In it they will find a great assortment of mosaics’. The title of Cavaliere was earned by Gallandt as the equivalent of knighthood (J. Gabriel, The Gilbert Collection Micromosaics, London, 2000, p. 285). At this time there were as many as ninety-six Mosaicisti operating in Rome largely producing small plaques, miniatures and cameos for the tourist trade. The best workshops continued to produce micromosaics on a massive scale but such magnificent and costly examples as the present lot remained the preserve of the wealthy and powerful. Monumental mosaics were bought as souvenirs by visiting aristocrats, given as diplomatic gifts, commissioned by monarchs and displayed at the Great Exhibitions. Another mosaic of this scale and by Luigi A. Gallandt is in the Gilbert Collection. It shows the Roman Forum and was possibly conceived as a pair to the present lot (J. Gabriel, op. cit., no. 57, p. 116).

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