Designed as an annular marble box embellished with a micro mosaic panel to the lid, depicting the famous Hellenistic statue, named the 'Borghese Gladiator', in profile, circa 1800, mounted in gold. Diameter of box; 8.5cm, depth of box; 2.5cm
Note: This Hellenistic warrior in action, created around 100 BC, is perhaps one of the most famous statues from antiquity. Poised to lunge with a sword in his right hand (the remnants of which are represented in his fist) and protect himself with a shield with his left (that is now only a band around his arm), he was widely admired and reproduced in many mediums.
The first known reproduction was a bronze cast by Hubert le Sueur around 1630 for King Charles I of England but was a source of inspiration and study for many artists over the subsequent centuries (The Louvre owns a sketch of it by Edgar Degas for example).
At the time that this micro mosaic box was made it was common place for dilettantes, scholars, and artists, to make pilgrimages to Rome to admire the Classical world.
From at least circa 1780, the original marble statue was housed in the Villa Borghese on the outskirts of Rome. It had been unearthed some time before 1611 in the gardens of Nero's seaside palace during excavations undertaken by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and became part of this famous family's much admired art collection. In 1807, due to financial difficulties, the most part of this incredible collection was sold by Camillo Borghese's (1775 -1832) to his brother in law Napoleon Bonaparte and can still be found in The Louvre in Paris today, as can the original Borghese Gladiator, having most recently restored in 1997.
The mounting of micro mosaic plaques bought in Italy within boxes, either in situe or once home from your travels, was a popular way of displaying these miniature works of art whose technique and often subject matter (as here) made great symbols for the glory of an inimitable civilisation that still captivates to this day.