When talking about “Classicism” or “Neoclassicism” my thoughts fly – banally – to my high school art book. I remember the pictures of Greco-Roman statues, frescoes and mosaics, following one another page after page. Those harmonious and gracious bodies, wrapped by fine garments were so wonderful, with their movement barely outlined, suspended in marble or on the walls for all eternity.
Mythology too comes into play. It is impossible not to be fascinated by the ancient myths. Getting lost in the stories and legends of our oldest divinities is a journey in search of what we were in the past and of what we ideally would like to become in the future.
Myths, changing and yet being always the same everytime they get told, are an important part of our culture. Olympus affairs, so memorably original and bizarre, have accompanied most of us since childhood and are a fundamental part of our Mediterranean heritage.
So, imagine my surprise when I found the most perfect synthesis of our cultural legacy in these three small works of art.
They might look like cammeos at first sight but if you observe them closely you will be able to see the intersections between the micro tiles.
Our extremely rare trio of Neoclassical elements in micro mosaic depicts Hera (or maybe Persephone), Eros and Ganymede.
We have been wondering for a long time about the identity of the female figure portrayed in the first element. On the one hand it could be Hera, who in the past was often depicted with a staff and with a pomegranate on the palm of her hand, emblem both of fertile blood and of death.
Daughter of Cronus and Rhea, Hera was first sister and then wife of Zeus, and therefore queen of the Olympus. In the Iliad she is proud, easy to quarrel with, stubborn and jealous. During the War of Troy, she sided for the Greeks, despising the Trojans because of the Judgement of Paris.
She was considered on the most important deities, and was revered as protector of marriage, marital fidelity, and childbirth.
However, after further considerations, we came to realize that the goddess portrayed in the micro mosaic could very well also be Persephone.
Daughter of Demeter (the goddess of fertility, corn and agriculture) and Zeus, she was abducted by her uncle Hades (king of the underworld) while she was picking some flowers in the plain of Nysa. Suddenly a beautiful narcissus bloomed in the middle of the flowery meadow: when she tried to reach for it, a pit opened at the base of the flower from which the King of the Dead came out, taking her away to marry her.
Once in the Underworld, she was offered some fruit: Persephone, who was not hungry, ate just six seeds of pomegranate, ignoring that whoever eats the Underworld fruits is then forced to stay there forever.
Queen of the Underworld she is often depicted with a pomegranate in one hand and a ear of wheat in the other with reference to her mother Demeter, who spent a long time desperately searching for her.
The second and smallest element figures Eros, the God of Love.
According to Hesiod, he is one of the most ancient god, contemporary to Chaos, Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus and represents the cohesive force of Nature.
According to others, Eros is the youngest among Gods and is depicted – especially in mosaics – as a winged boy.
His attributes are bow, arrows, quiver and he is often the bearer of gifts such as flowers, fruits, and game, to symbolize abundance and prosperity.
The third elements tells us about the myth of Ganymede.
The most ancient form of the legend says that Ganymede was the most beautiful of mortals. Zeus, Father of the Gods, fell in love with his beauty and abducted him in the form of an eagle to make him his beloved and to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus.
In ancient Greek artworks Ganymede was depicted either next to or embracing, or even flying on an eagle. The boy was also often figured with a cup in his hands, as in our micromosaic.
I must confess that I use to spend at least five minutes every day to admire our trio through the magnifying glass. The attention to details, the clever employ of tiles in grey-white soft shades, recalling the plasticity of ancient Greek-Romans sculptures make these elements unique and inimitable.
Have you noticed, furthermore, that the details of faces were not made with many enamel glass micro tiles but are instead outlined on single murrine?
The bright black background on which the figures stand out gives further depth and three dimensionality to the whole composition.
The micro mosaicist’s virtuosity is fully expressed in realizing the softness of the garments through a well-studied arrangement of the wavy and slightly overlapping micro tesserae in delicate shaded nuances.
These elements dating back to 19th century, from Rome are perfect to be mounted on a ring or on a pendant. And why not, a skilled jeweler could imagine a set of earrings and pendant, matching some baroque pearls to make the ensemble even brighter.
I leave the choice to you and your imagination. In the meantime, I’ll go back admiring them while they are still here with us in our store 😉
Hera/Persephone: 23 x 18 mm
Eros: ⌀17 mm
Ganymede: 25 x 18 mm
Watch the following VIDEO to have look at the miniature as you were in our store!
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