Micromosaic portrait of Pope Pius VII by Raffaele Castellini
Performed on the painting portrait of Pius VII made by the famous artist Vincenzo Camuccini in 1815.
The mosaic is been surely oredered by the Pope himself as a pontificial gift. Another work signed by the same mosaicist depicting the portrait of Pope Gregory XVI is kept at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, from the Sir Arthur Gilbert Collection.
Dimension: 10 × 13 cm mosaic, 22.5 × 15 cm frame.
CASTELLINI RAFFAELE (1791-1864)
Son of Vincent, was born in Rome in 1791 According to the indication of his obituary, which says died at the age of 73.
He married a Maria Domenica, from which it is known that had two sons, Cesare who undertook his own way as mosaicist, and Peter, of which however is ignored the activity. Mosaicists were also his father and uncle Antonio, both at the service of the Reverend Fabric of St. Peter, who had to have a decisive influence on his artistic education.
Allowed to attend the Vatican Mosaic Studio around 1812 (the Rev. Arch Factory of St. Peter in the Vatican, I floor, series 3, Pack 14 A., c. 141), during his apprenticeship he worked at judgment of contemporaries with good results, at a mosaic representing an allegory of Silence and a Dolphin surrounded by water, for the edge of the so-called Shield of Achilles, that is the table top which, mounted on four-legged gilded bronze hawks in Pompeian style, was to become a table donated by Leo XII in 1825 to Charles X of France, and now preserved in the Museum of Versailles (see Anthology of Fine Arts in 1977, 2, pp. 212-16).
The activity of Castellini is documented for minor works in 1816 and the following year (ibid., ibid., 14 pack, DC. 210, 284). In September 1817 Castellini was charged, along with Raffaele Cocchi,to work, under the guidance of two elderly mosaicist that at the time were already engaged - his uncle Antonio and Bartolomeo Tomberli - at the "Incredulity of St. Thomas", now in the first chapel to the right of the south transept, taken from the painting by V. Camuccini. Hiring the two young men, the factory hoped to hasten the conclusion of the work, begun as early as 1806 (ibid., ibid., DC. 231-233v) by the same Tomberli and the father of Castellini. The documents (ibid., ibid., DC. 220-233) reveal the complicated events of the completion of this framework, considered particularly difficult. At the same time there are well documented study of the economic difficulties of the mosaicists for which the most deserving artists went directly to the exchequer (ibid., ibid., 14 A. Pack, c. 31v).
In January of 1823 (ibid., ibid., C. 108rv) Castellini relized a mosaic of a Sibyl from a Domenichino's drawing which was completed in 1841 with "universal praise" (for all phases of implementation, see ibid., ibid., Series cabinets, vol. 546, p. 6, vol. 514, p. 68, Octagon, Protocol of the year 1841, strand 129).
In 1824 the Castellini restored, with others, the roundel of the Evangelist St. Luke on the first pillar on the left dome of the Vatican. Numerous receipts signed by him (ibid., ibid., Series 3, B. 14 pack, DC. 305-309, 388 f.), relating to the requests of enamel, inform us on his activities as a restorer: they concern the years 1825, 1826, 1831 to work on the three mosaics representing the Bacchae, and the 1833 and 1834, for restoration work in the dome of the Gregorian chapel in St. Peter. Two receipts in 1834 amounted instead his intervention in the composition of the festoons of roses and lilies for the chapel choir always in St. Peter. In November of 1836 he restored the mosaics in the basilica of St. Paul and he was still working thre in 1837 (ibid., ibid., 14 A. Pack, c. 121, parcel 14, cc. S 83.). In the same period (1836-37) together with R. Cocchi, G. Chibel and G. Volponi, Castellini restored the facade of the Orvieto cathedral.
The 3rd of January 1840 (ibid., ibid., 14 A. Pack, c. 252) Cardinal G. Giustiniani sent as a gift to the Secretary of the Factory Monsignor Antonio Matteucci the portrait of the reigning Pope, Gregory XVI, worked in mosaic by Castellini. In April of 1841, the Castellini took the task of completing the mosaic of "St. John the Baptist" by Guercino, started by mosaic artist Nicola De Vecchis in 1830 and interrupted by the death of this (ibid., Octagon, Protocol of the year 1841, files 92, 129).
From the justification of a payment in his favor, in the year 1849, we learn that at that time the Castellini was a professor at the Vatican Mosaic Studio (Busiri Vici, p. 100). From the documents stored in the Factory of S. Peter is possible to reconstruct the works to which the Castellini was applied in the following years, alone or with other mosaic artists of the Studio: a dejeuner with a "View of S. Gregorio al Celio" (Rev. Arch Factory of St. Peter in the Vatican, I floor, series 3, bundle 14 B. c. 499: 1850), restoration of an ancient mosaic in the caves of S. Peter (ibid., ibid., Vol. C. 170, p. 159, 182-186, passim: 1859-60); reconstitution of chronological series of popes in the basilica of S. Paul, to which he applied in 1860 and was working at the time of death (Portrait of John XVIII: Ibid., Ibid., Series VII, mandates Filza, 1863, strand 123).
The Castellini died in Rome on June the 11th of 1864.
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