All three of the buttons shown are mosaics. Myra purchased the Mosaic Collection in the late 1960s, and it was the pride and joy of her vast collection of buttons. There are many fine examples of Roman mosaic pieces as well as Florence pieces more commonly known as “pietra dura” mosaics.
The mosaics from Rome have a completely different look from those of Florence. Often the entire face of the button is made from tiny pieces of stone or glass and may be set in silver, brass, gold over brass or gold. These buttons were made as early as the 17th century and sold to the tourist trade. However, the buttons in Myra’s collection are not that early: they date from the 1850s. These Roman mosaics are finely done and are also beautiful works of art. The most popular motifs of these mosaics were animals, flowers, Roman ruins, landscapes and people. The rarer and harder to find motifs are the people and animals.
Mosaics from Florence are works of art made by cutting designs from stones such as malachite and carnelian and placing these pieces into a black background stone. These pieces are often done so finely that a magnifying glass is needed to determine whether or not they have been painted or made from tiny pieces of stone. Flowers and birds were the most popular motifs used.
At the top of the page, the button on the left is pietra dura using the rarer animal motif. As finely done as the building, it was made circa 1870. In the center is an example of a Roman mosaic button, also circa 1870. It is so finely made that it resembles a painting. On the right is a fine example of a Florence pietra dura button using the popular bird motif.
Watch the video below from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection includes some of the world’s most spectacular micromosaics. This film explores this astonishing technique through the recreation of a historic micromosaic, made from millimeter-thin canes of glass at the SICIS The Art Mosaic Factory.
The mosaic buttons at the Keep Homestead Museum are micromosaics. They were made in a similar fashion from glass, but also with tiny pieces of precious and semi-precious stones.