Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Lamb of God

The firm of Castellani
Micromosaic brooch with the Lamb of God,
Rome, Italy, around AD 1860
Diameter: 5.300 cm
The British Museum, London

The Museum Catalogue describes this beautiful work in this way:

"The brooch is made of glass and gold mosaic, set in enamelled gold. The central medallion is made up of minute cubes of glass, or tesserae, of differing shades of colours. The halo of the Lamb (symbolizing Jesus Christ) is made of real gold tesserae, not glass. The outer border is decorated with enamel set within a pattern of gold cells. As the enamel does not fill the entire depth of the cells, the pattern stands out in relief.

Pio Fortunato Castellani (1794-1865) pioneered the revival of jewellery techniques from the ancient world. His firm, carried on by his sons Alessandro (1823-83) and Augusto (1829-1914), became the most original and prolific producer of jewellery in the 'archaeological' style, so called because most of their work was based on actual Etruscan, Greek or Roman jewellery. This followed the excavation of Etruscan tombs in the area around Rome in the 1830s."

The design of the Lamb is based on the large-scale mosaic in the apse of the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Rome. See below.

The mosaic dates from 527-530 AD. The dominating figure in the centre is that of Christ the Judge, who stands above the dramatically coloured clouds, clothed in a clasped toga and a stole signifying a learned man. To approach Christ, it is necessary to cross the Jordan River, symbol of Baptism and life giving grace.

The Apostle Peter presents Cosmas and the Apostle Paul presents Damian so that they may receive the crown of their martyrdom.

In the lower band, coming from the left and from the right, is a procession of sheep (symbol of the new humanity) moving from Bethlehem and Jerusalem towards the Divine Lamb from Whom springs up the rivers of life: the Geon, Fison, Tigris and Euphrates.