134 pp, size cm 22×24, ill. full colour printing, paperback
The musaico in piccolo is an extremely patient, painstaking endeavour; its origins were inspired by the idea of threading the same enamels used to create the paintings in St Peter’s Basilica… This invention seems to be attributed to mosaicist Giacomo Raffaelli… who in 1775 had shown mosaics, all done with smalti filati, at his workshop in Rome.
These are the words Gaetano Moroni, a historian of encyclopaedic knowledge and a witness of the artistic events in his lifetime (1802-1883), wrote in 1847. The musaico in piccolo, today known as “micromosaic”, originated in the Vatican Mosaic Studio, active in Rome since the end of the 16th century. Nevertheless, it gained ground with small-size pieces crafted in connection with the Grand Tour phenomenon, a leading force in the art industry in Rome from the late
18th to throughout the 19th century. Modern historiographical studies have widely highlighted the importance of miniature mosaics (another name for the musaico in piccolo) also in the furniture field, by retracing an outstanding collection of masterpieces. As a matter of fact, mosaicists were known as artisan-entrepreneurs both in Italy and Europe. The Messuri Collection mainly consists of small-size plaques, which in many cases are inlaid in precious objets de vertu. It definitely suggests an interesting journey inside the figurative language of the micromosaic art and also has the merit of unveiling new, enthralling stories related thereto. The Messuri Collection has another distinguishing feature: some artpieces are substantiated by coeval evidence thus unveiling curiosities about their purchasers, celebrating intentions, emotional ties and more. In the whole, you get enthralled by it as a magic “cabinet of wonders” where art and historical documentation are beautifully intertwined.
Maria Grazia Branchetti, a former high school teacher, has taught university classes and also served as the curator of exhibitions and cultural events at the Archivio di Stato, the State Archives of Italy, in Rome. While retracing the biographies of artists who had decorated the interior of St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican State, in the 18th and 19th centuries, she got enthralled with, and started investigating the modern mosaic art. Among her early key contributions in this field, she joined the scientific committee of the Mosaici Minuti romani del ’700 e dell’ ’800 exhibition held in the Braccio di Carlo Magno in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City, in 1986. Since then, she has been consistently involved in the study of the micromosaic art, and has played a leading role in highlighting the connection of micromosaic artpieces with the Grand Tour phenomenon and disclosing both their noble and technical features. Evidence of her commitment in this field are numerous essays and monographs. For the publishing house Il Formichiere, she has authored an essay about one of the most celebrated mosaic masterpieces in the Neoclassical age – a tabletop known as the Shield of Achilles (Il mosaico minuto tra Roma, Milano e l’Europa 2016) – and a monograph dealing with the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Otricoli (2017) as the result of her exacting work in the field of documentary research.