Micromosaics from the Sir Arthur Gilbert Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Mariam Saskia Sonntag

Abstract

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection is a collection of decorative art objects comprising of silver and gold objects d’art, ornamented snuff boxes, clocks, portrait enamel miniatures as well as pietre dure objects and micromosaics. The collection was compiled by English-born business man Sir Arthur Gilbert (1913 – 2001) and his wife Rosalinde (1913 – 1995). The masterpieces they acquired from the 1960s onwards often came from prestigious collections, and the Gilberts enjoyed works associated with, or even owned by important figures of history. The collection, originally on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was donated to the British State in 1996 where it found its temporary home at Somerset House before it permanently moved to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2008. The galleries for the Gilbert Collection were renovated recently and reopened in autumn 2016, yet many items are still in the storage rooms and are being assessed. My paper begins by explaining the V&A’s plans for making the whole collection available to a wider audience through publications and digital presentation and the role of the conservator within this endeavour. I then focus on the conservation and research of the micromosaics, exploring the history of this collection, its highlights, and the historical importance of some of the objects. Micromosaics have their origin in 18th-century Rome and consist of tiny, colourful, opaque glass rods. Unfortunately, these peculiar objects are understudied. Using several case studies from our collection, I expose the materials and techniques used in the creation of the micromosaics. These research results inform conservation and restoration treatments and allow us to gain a glimpse behind the curtain as to the history of these unique objects.

2019 | Uncasville | Volume 26