Giacomo Raffaelli (1753-1836) worked in both the Vatican workshops as well as his own atelier in the Piazza di Spagna, where the numerous mosaic workshops were clustered to take advantage of travellers on the Grand Tour. Extensively patronised by Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) and credited by Moroni as 'caposcuola del mosaico in piccolo', (= the founder of the school of tiny mosaics), in his Dizionario di erudidizione storiecclesiastica, Venice 1847-1860, Raffaelli's micromosaics are characterised by their sophistication of tonal modulation and smalti filati, as well as by the sense of motion and naturalism that are instilled in them.
The original mosaic panel of the Doves of Pliny was discovered in 1737 by Monsignor Furetti on the floor of the Villa Hadrian (125-133 AD), and later purchased by Pope Clement XIII. The scene was described by the natural historian Pliny the Elder in Natural History XXXVII as proof of the perfection to which the art of mosaics had arrived. He writes: 'At Pergamos is a wonderful specimen of a dove drinking and darkening the water with the shadow of her head; on the lip of the vessel are other doves pluming themselves in the sun'. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the much revered Capitoline Doves of Pliny was perhaps the most celebrated mosaic preserved for antiquity and as such, the most frequently repeated by mosaicists. The scene was replicated many times by the makers of shell cameos and glass micromosaics for jewellery, box-lids and plaques of all sizes. The original work is today preserved in the Museo Capitolino in Rome.